FPL Solar Expansion Means Greener, Cheaper Energy

Sustainability

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY FEB 11, 2019

By the year 2030, Florida Power & Light plans to install another 30 million solar panels. So what’s that mean for the region where FPL’s first solar plan went online a decade ago? Officials say a greener, more sustainable grid will also save customers money over the long run.

"FPL and NextEra Energy Resources have been at the forefront of advancing affordable clean energy for decades," says Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "It's why our customers enjoy electricity that is among the cleanest and most reliable in the country for a price more than 30 percent below the national average. That said, we're not satisfied with the status quo and understand that our customers expect even more from us as energy experts and industry leaders."

FPL already operates 18 large solar centers in Florida. The FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, the first solar plant in Florida, opened in Arcadia in 2009 with President Obama attending the event. The FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center in Manatee County, FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County and FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center in Charlotte County all opened in 2016.

The expansion between now and 2030 should make Florida a leader in clean energy, officials said. When considered alongside two FPL nuclear plants, a more controversial but also clean energy source, officials estimate 40 percent of power produced by the company in Florida will be emissions-free.

Stephen Heiman, FPL spokesman, says all power generated goes into a shared power grid, so it’s hard to say what areas rely more on solar than other sources of energy. But he says having more panels will mean more clean power systemwide. “That’s why we’re building solar sites throughout the state of Florida,” he says.

That means more panels should be exposed to the sun’s rays more of the time. “We know this is the Sunshine State,” Heiman says, “but we also have more thunderstorms than any other state in the U.S.”

Sarasota and Manatee counties together serve as home to 450,000 FPL users, Heiman says, representing a big chunk of 5 million FPL customers statewide. All will benefit from the millions in savings the solar centers should recoup, he says.

Photo: FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center

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