Florida’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) announced a plan earlier this week to invest a lot of money—$400 million—in solar power. Unfortunately it’s all focussed on utility-scale solar power and not on residential solar. The Sunshine State’s regulators and utilities have had an acrimonious relationship with residential solar in the state even as utilities like FPL are moving forward with large solar projects.
The latest announced projects will include three photovoltaic solar farms. The new solar plants are anticipated to be about 74 megawatts each.
“We have been working especially hard to find ways to advance solar energy in Florida without increasing electricity costs, and we have developed what we believe will be a cost-effective plan to triple the amount of solar energy we use to serve our customers before the end of 2016,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL.
At the same time, the company will retire some of its oldest fossil fuel-burning units. It will also increase investments in natural gas and nuclear energy to serve 24-hour energy generation needs.
One of the reasons solar, and residential solar in particular, may not have taken off in Florida as in some other states is the lack of of a statewide renewable energy standard and a requirement that each utility sources some of its solar power from residences and businesses. However, some groups are trying to change that. Floridans for Solar Choice and Conservatives for Energy Freedom are pushing for a 2016 ballot initiative that would allow homeowners and business owners to sell solar power to others in the state and to promote small-scale solar in the state.
FPL said: “Currently, solar power—even the most economical large-scale installation—is generally not yet cost effective in FPL's service area, due in part to its higher costs compared to the company's highly efficient system and low electric rates.” It added that the new solar projects, will be cost-effective, however.
"As the economics of solar power improve in the years ahead, we believe we will be able to harness more and more sunshine cost-effectively, alongside essential, high-efficiency, clean natural gas generation and zero-emissions nuclear power, to continue powering our customers and the state's growing economy with affordable clean energy," Silagy said. FPL
The new power plants will be the Citrus Solar Energy Center, FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center and FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center. More details will come soon, according to FPL.Tweet