FPL clears local hurdle for solar project in Florida

Officials in Hendry County Florida have approved a request from NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) subsidiary Florida Power & Light (FPL) to rezone about 3,100 acres of property from General Agriculture (A-2) to the Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning district to allow an electrical generating facility.

The vote occurred around April 13, according to the Hendry County Commission website.

The rezoning, which has met some local opposition, would evidently clear the way for a 325-MW solar power facility. The Hendry County Planning and Zoning Department received a staff report on Oct. 29, 2015 that outlined the rezoning request.

The report to the zoning board, which was posted on the Internet, said that FPL was seeking to rezone the property to allow power generating facilities powered by either natural gas or solar photovoltaic (PV) energy or a combination of both.

“The solar areas are proposed on 1,841 +/- acres and the conservation areas consist of 986 +/- acres. The proposed maximum height for structures within the gas plant facility is 150 feet and the maximum height for the solar panels is 20 feet,” according to the document filed with the county in October 2015.

The siting process in Florida includes a proposed final order by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which would then propose a final order for the Florida Siting Board, which includes the governor and cabinet.

The property is located within a rural area of unincorporated Hendry County. There is an existing power line easement that runs immediately adjacent to the property.

The Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation is located to the south of the property and primarily includes farm fields, open lands and rural residential uses immediately adjacent to the subject property, according to the zoning board document. The Reservation also includes more intense uses including the Billie Swamp Safari tourist attraction, a museum, schools, religious facilities, a public safety complex and other community offices and facilities, a water tower, a truck stop, restaurants, a recreational vehicle resort, rock mining area and a small airport.

The Clewiston News reported in July 2015 that the Hendry County Commission had voted to send the FPL proposal for state review. The same newspaper subsequently reported in November that the County Commission had granted FPL’s proposal to continue a hearing on the land issue until early 2016.

Attempts in recent days to secure additional information from FPL were unsuccessful.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.