Florida Power & Light Co. is making excellent progress on plans for three new large-scale solar energy centers, the company reported as part of the Florida Public Service Commission's (PSC) annual Ten-Year Site Plan workshop.
Projected for completion by the end of 2016, the three new plants will triple FPL's current solar capacity cost-effectively – with no net cost to customers over the plants' operating lifetimes.
"FPL has been working to advance solar affordably in Florida for more than a decade," Pamela Rauch, FPL's vice president of development and external affairs, told the PSC. "Large-scale solar is by far the most economical way to advance solar energy for the benefit of all of our customers."
The three new plants and the counties in which they are being built are: the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, Charlotte County, Fla.; the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County, Fla.; and the FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center, Manatee County, Fla.
Currently, solar power is generally not yet cost-effective in FPL's service area, due in part to its higher costs relative to the company's highly efficient system and low electric rates. FPL, which has been working for several years to find ways to advance solar cost-effectively, identified three suitable existing sites with unique built-in advantages, such as the existence of sufficient transmission and substation infrastructure. These advantages, combined with support from the local communities, are helping reduce the overall cost of construction and enable the company to advance solar cost-effectively.
In addition, FPL announced the selection of industry-leading engineering, procurement and construction firm, Black & Veatch, to design and build the three plants at a competitive cost. Engineering work is well underway, and FPL expects to officially break ground later this year. Actual construction activity is expected to take approximately one year to complete.
Each of the three new plants is being designed for roughly 74 megawatts of capacity. These plants, along with several community-based, small-scale solar arrays and commercial-scale solar research installations that FPL is building, will combine for a total of more than 225 megawatts of new solar capacity by the end of next year. This will effectively triple FPL's solar capacity, which currently totals approximately 110 megawatts.
FPL's current solar portfolio includes the 25-megawatt FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center; the 10-megawatt FPL Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center near NASA's Kennedy Space Center; and 75 megawatts at the FPL Martin Clean Energy Center, the world's first hybrid solar/natural gas plant.
Economic Advantages of New Solar Plants
FPL is leveraging multiple advantages and expertise gained from building its first three large-scale solar power plants to drive down costs, enabling cost-effective large-scale solar to become a reality for the first time in the Sunshine State. The potential is strong: According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) data, more than 98 percent of Florida's solar potential is in large-scale solar, compared with less than 2 percent for rooftop installations.
FPL estimates that large-scale solar in Florida produces about 2.5 times more solar energy per dollar invested than small-scale systems. In addition to capitalizing on economies-of-scale, FPL has selected sites with prior permitting and/or site development that offer close proximity to existing transmission infrastructure.
Based on the projects' location in Southwest Florida, where the state's solar resource is strongest, FPL expects to see as much as 5 percent greater energy production from the plants' panels compared with projected generation in other areas of the state. Solar resource, or the intensity of the sun's rays to reach an area, affects the ability of photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. Overall, Florida ranks ninth in the country for solar resource, according to NREL, and Southwest Florida has the strongest solar resource within the state.
FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center
Planned in partnership with the Babcock Ranch development, the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center will be located in Charlotte County, Fla. In 2011, FPL completed initial permitting for the site, which was donated by the Babcock Ranch development, helping keep costs down for FPL customers. County tax incentives and a portion of franchise fees committed by the Babcock Ranch Independent Special District further reduce the cost of the project.
"This represents a tremendous opportunity for us to put Charlotte County and Babcock Ranch on the map as clean-energy leaders," said Tom Patton, Charlotte County's economic development director. "Our community is very proud of our relationship with Florida Power & Light, and its efforts to advance renewable energy throughout the state."
FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center
The FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center will be located in DeSoto County, Fla., near Florida's first large-scale solar plant, the 25-megawatt FPL DeSoto Solar Energy Center, which opened in October 2009. FPL already owns the 841 acres of land on which the plant will be built, and only minor permitting modifications are required. Other advantages of the location that are helping to keep the costs down for FPL customers include the ability to connect to existing transmission infrastructure and county tax incentives.
"Thanks to our partnership with FPL, DeSoto County has a proud history of solar generation, and this project further cements our commitment to renewable energy," said DeSoto County Commissioner Gabriel Quave. "We are thrilled that FPL has again chosen DeSoto County to expand its solar energy."
FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center
The FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center is being built on a 762-acre site that FPL owns next to the company's natural gas-powered Manatee Power Plant in Manatee County, Fla. Other cost advantages include tax incentives provided by the county and the ability for the new plant to connect with an existing substation.
FPL's solar investments are part of the company's long-term, affordable clean energy strategy. Since 2001, the company's investments in fuel efficiency have saved customers more than $8 billion and prevented more than 95 million tons of carbon emissions. Today, FPL produces cleaner, more reliable power for typical customers that is more than 10 percent lower than it was 10 years ago. FPL recently announced that it expects to reduce rates for customers again in 2016.