Florida Power & Light Co. broke ground on its three new solar power plants with a ceremony on the site of the future FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center.
The three new large, community-scale plants, which include the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center and the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, are expected to begin producing affordable, clean energy by the end of 2016 and will triple the company's current solar capacity.
"Six years ago, not far from here, FPL commissioned what was then the largest photovoltaic solar power plant ever built in the United States with 90,000 solar panels," said Eric Silagy, FPL president and CEO. "Fast-forward to 2016, and we're extending our leadership role in the renewable energy space by installing 1 million new solar panels. If you laid these panels end to end, they would nearly wrap around the entire state. But we couldn't have come this far on our own. Working with the communities we serve, we are building solar energy centers that are not only reliable, but also cost-effective, providing affordable, clean energy for our customers for generations to come."
FPL has been working for several years to find ways to reduce costs in order to make the construction of these three solar plants cost-effective. The company identified three suitable existing sites with unique built-in advantages, such as the existence of sufficient transmission and substation infrastructure, and strong community support. Also, by buying solar panels in such a large quantity, FPL has been able to realize significant savings for customers. Without these unique cost advantages, solar power – even the most economical community-scale installation – is still generally not yet cost-effective in FPL's service area, due in part to its higher costs compared with the company's highly efficient system and low electric rates.
The FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center will consist of more than 338,000 solar panels over 762 acres — enough to cover 577 football fields. The other two solar plants are:
• FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, which is being built on 841 acres in DeSoto County, Fla., near the site of FPL's first large-scale solar power plant
• FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, now under construction on 440 acres in Charlotte County, Fla., as part of the new Babcock Ranch sustainable community
When completed, each of the three new solar plants will have 74.5 MW of solar 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 this year. This will effectively triple FPL's solar capacity, which currently totals approximately 110 MW.