Florida Power & Light advances development of three major solar projects

Florida Power & Light (FPL) said Sept. 16 that it is making excellent progress on plans for three new large-scale solar energy centers that each have a capacity of about 74 MW.

The company reported on that progress as part of the Florida Public Service Commission’s (PSC) annual Ten-Year Site Plan workshop. This year’s ten-year plan had been filed with the commission on April 1.

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, the utility said.

“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, said it identified three suitable existing sites with unique built-in advantages, such as the existence of sufficient transmission and substation infrastructure.

In addition, FPL announced the selection of an 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 MW 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 MW of new solar capacity by the end of next year. This will effectively triple FPL’s solar capacity, which currently totals approximately 110 MW. FPL’s current solar portfolio includes:

  • the 25-MW FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center;
  • the 10-MW FPL Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center; and
  • 75 MW at the FPL Martin Clean Energy Center, the world’s first hybrid solar/natural gas plant.

Particulars of the new projects include:

  • FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center – Planned in partnership with the Babcock Ranch development, this project 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.
  • 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-MW 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.
  • FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center – This project 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.

Florida Power & Light is the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving approximately 4.8 million customer accounts across nearly half of the state of Florida. FPL’s typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 30% lower than the latest national average and, in 2014, was the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities for the fifth year in a row. FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.