FPL Commissions Parrish Plant, Announces More Solar



Florida Power & Light Company officials celebrated the commission of a new solar power facility in Parrish on Monday, where they also announced plans to build new universal solar power plants at eight locations by early 2018. “We have been working hard to drive down the costs of adding solar so we can deliver even more zero-emissions energy to all of our customers,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “We have proven that it’s possible to cut emissions and deliver reliable service while keeping electric bills low for our customers.”

The FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center was one of three solar facilities commissioned Monday and brought online late last year; others now operate in Charlotte and DeSoto counties. The expansion of solar here comes less than eight years after the commission of a plant in Arcadia, an event so groundbreaking nationally it attracted then-president Barack Obama to its opening celebrations in 2009 to announce a clean energy initiative at the site.

Bill Orlove, FPL’s lead communications specialist, says FPL is in good position to bring more solar centers online because it can place plants near existing facilities and connect to an established power grid. For example, the Parrish center sits next to an existing natural gas plant in operation since the 1970s. “That affords us the ability to tie into transmission lines and our substation to have a way of getting power out onto the grid,” he says. Even as FPL relies more on renewable solar energy, it can then count on existing plants for support as well, ensuring, for example, that power availability isn’t subject to clear weather. This allows the company to produce a substantial amount of solar energy without raising utility costs to consumers, Orlove says. 

The actions have drawn praise from environmental activists. Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, attended the Monday event and lauded the announcement of new solar centers. “A year ago, I stood here as FPL broke ground on this solar site, marking the start of the installation of one million solar panels that are now producing zero-emissions energy,” Draper says. 

The three plants commissioned Monday represent more than 1 million solar panels now powering the region, and the eight new plants will bring another 2.5 million panels to power areas around the state. That’s enough panels to wrap around the coastline of Florida twice.

The commission event in Parrish was also a community event, bringing students from around the state together to participate in solar-themed events, such as a cookout using solar-powered ovens and a race with student-built vehicles that run on solar.

Photo by Armando Solares/FPL: Daniel Lopez and Samson DelTorto, both seniors from Lemon Bay High School in Englewood, Fla., make adjustments to their solar car at Florida Power & Light Company’s Manatee Solar Energy Center in Parrish on Monday. Nearly 50 groups of students from around the state demonstrated how they could harness the sun’s power and turn it into energy during the company’s commissioning event of the three universal solar power plants.

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