FPL takes leadership role in state solar effort
Wake up and good morning. Florida Power & Light Co.'s groundbreaking this week in Arcadia for its DeSoto County "Next Generation" solar energy center will bring commercial-scale solar photovoltaic power to Florida for the very first time. At 25 megawatts, the 180-acre plant will be the largest photovoltaic solar facility in the nation when it is complete at the end of 2009. Officials say it will be able to power a fifth of DeSoto County, or 3,000 homes -- granted, not one of Florida's high density counties -- pollution free and replace the need for 277,000 barrels of oil. (Photo: Doug Murray, courtesy of FPL.)
The project should be generating electricity by the end of the year. The panels will capture up to 25 percent more electricity because they face the sun throughout all the hours of the day, rather than sit fixed in one position. The company, Sun Power, has built hundreds like this around the world. But the one they're building now in DeSoto County for Florida Power and Light will be by far the biggest in North America. Here's My Fox Tampa Bay's video report on how the panels work, which notes the solar panels could be vulnerable to hurricanes. And here's FPL's own video that helps explain how it works.
The facility (show in rendering) will provide significant economic benefits to DeSoto County, creating more than 200 jobs during peak construction and providing more than $2 million in annual tax revenues by the end of 2010 to help boost the local economy.
Said FPL Group president Jim Robo: “We’re proud to be the company that is bringing commercial-scale solar power to the Sunshine State. Solar power will help promote a new clean-energy economy in Florida, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and address global climate change through the production of emissions-free energy.
Photovoltaic panels convert sunlight directly into electricity, which can be fed onto the electrical grid without the need of a turbine generator. FPL says advances are now making photovoltaic panels practical on a large scale. The company says this facility will avoid the release of more than 575,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. That's like taking more than 4,500 cars off the road every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
FPL is building two other solar facilities in Florida. With the DeSoto solar plant, they will total 110 megawatts of renewable solar energy capacity. FPL broke ground in December 2008 on the Martin "Next Generation" solar energy center, which will be the world’s first hybrid solar energy plant and the second largest solar thermal plant in the nation. It will generate 75 megawatts of solar energy once it is fully operational in 2010. FPL will build a third facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which will add 10 megawatts to the state’s photovoltaic solar capacity.
Robo said the company envisions a "CleanTech Corridor" spanning the Florida peninsula filled with renewable and other clean-energy projects. He added:
"The goal is to make Florida a magnet for renewable manufacturers, for research dollars at the state’s universities, and for good-paying jobs in a dynamic growth industry."
FPL’s three solar projects will make Florida the No. 2 producer of solar energy in the nation and strengthen FPL Group’s position in clean energy. FPL already is the nation’s No. 1 producer of renewable energy from wind.
All in all, not bad timing given the Obama administration's apparent commitment to encouraging alternative energy.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist