TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NSF) – Florida’s largest electric utility intends to double its solar-energy plans for the coming year, leading solar proponents to praise the announcement — and say they would like to see more.
A month after outlining plans to build four solar plants this year, Florida Power & Light on Monday said it will put up eight such facilities by early 2018.
The company anticipates the plants — combining to create nearly 600 megawatts of power, enough for about 120,000 homes at peak production — will save customers “millions” over the lifetime of each center.
FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy, who told regulators last year the company planned to increase its solar production as part of a settlement agreement that included $811 million in base-rate increases for customers, said Monday the company is advancing the plans as new facilities become more cost-effective.
“By accelerating, we’re able to get much better (rates), from a standpoint of purchasing power,” Silagy said. “When you go out and place an order for 2.5 million panels, you get a lot of interest and some very competitive pricing.”
Monday’s announcement came as FPL officials were in Manatee County to commission the Manatee Solar Energy Center, which was one of three solar centers that came online Dec. 31. The others are the Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center in Charlotte County and the Citrus Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County.
Each of the recently completed 74.5-megawatt solar facilities — the same output size as those planned to go up in the next year — costs roughly $130 million to build. In 2009, FPL spent about $100 million for a 180-acre solar facility in DeSoto County that produces about 25 megawatts.
“This is a very positive thing for all of us who are advocates of solar power,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “We have long been saying Florida is a phenomenal solar market and maintain that all investor-owned utilities should be developing solar resources as part of their planning process.”
Yet, Smith said FPL should have more solar facilities in place, when its size is compared with other regional utilities.
He also contended the company could potentially save customers more.