FPL Halfway Through 600-MW Solar Power Expansion

Florida Power & Light (FPL), which recently sustained a blow to its nuclear expansion plans, on October 19 said it’s about halfway through an ambitious plan to add eight new solar plants in the state by early 2018, as it continues to increase its photovoltaic (PV) generation capacity as part of a larger strategy to install more than 10 million solar panels in its service territory by 2023.

FPL already has installed about 1.25 million solar panels at the eight new plants, with another 1.25 million to go. It’s the utility’s largest one-year solar expansion, surpassing the company’s installation of 1 million panels at three solar plants in 2016. FPL said construction at the sites at its peak employed more than 1,000 workers.

FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy on October 19 said the company is “investing nearly $1 billion to grow solar in Florida this year alone.” Silagy, visiting the Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center in Brevard County on Thursday as part of a tour with local officials, said: “Together, these eight new plants are projected to generate an estimated net lifetime savings of more than $100 million for our customers, over and above the cost of construction.” Silagy said the new projects are part of FPL’s “continued commitment to rapidly expand solar energy while keeping customer bills low [and] demonstrates that it is, in fact, possible to be both clean and affordable.”

FPL recently announced plans to close the St. Johns River Power Park in Jacksonville, its last coal-fired plant in Florida. The company in recent years began operating four large natural-gas fired facilities: the 1,250-MW Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center in Riviera Beach; the 1,295-MW Cape Canaveral Next Generation Clean Energy Center in Brevard County, a POWER Top Plant in 2013; the 3,750-MW West County Energy Center in Palm Beach County, a POWER Top Plant in 2010; and the 1,280-MW Port Everglades Next Generation Clean Energy Center. It also is building the 1,600-MW Okeechobee Clean Energy Center near Vero Beach. FPL operates two nuclear plants—Turkey Point near Miami, and St. Lucie on Hutchinson Island.

Four Solar Projects Near Completion

Florida ranked ninth among states in solar power generation capacity installed in 2016, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). California is far and away the U.S. leader in installed solar capacity, with more than 18,000 MW installed as of year-end 2016, more than six times that of second-place North Carolina.

The eight new FPL solar plants under construction, each with a generation capacity of 74.5 MW, include four expected to be completed by year-end:

  • FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center, Alachua and Putnam counties
  • FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center, Putnam County
  • FPL Indian River Solar Energy Center, Indian River County
  • FPL Wildflower Solar Energy Center, Desoto County

Another four projects are scheduled to be completed by March 1, 2018:

  • FPL Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center, Brevard County
  • FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center, Indian River County
  • FPL Hammock Solar Energy Center, Hendry County
  • FPL Loggerhead Solar Energy Center, St. Lucie County

FPL expects to add 2,300 MW of solar generation capacity between 2016 and 2023; the utility installed 225 MW of capacity last year. The company commissioned its first solar plant in Miami, a 10-kW facility, in 1984. Its 25-MW DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center opened in 2009; at the time, it was the largest PV power plant in the U.S. The utility currently operates six larger solar plants in Florida, along with several smaller installations, totaling more than 335 MW of generation capacity.

PSC Rejects Nuclear Recovery

The utility this week sustained a blow to its nuclear plans in the state, when the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) rejected the company’s request to charge customers an additional $49 million for the planning of two new units at the Turkey Point nuclear facility on Biscayne Bay, near Miami. FPL in 2008 said it wanted to add two reactors to Turkey Point, and could charge customers under a “nuclear recovery law” state lawmakers approved in 2006.

The PSC on October 17 said FPL could not pass along those costs, citing FPL’s refusal to submit an annual feasibility study—required since 2013— for the project. FPL in its initial plans said the new Turkey Point units could be operational as early as 2018 and 2020, but in recent filings with the PSC said the expansion would not occur until 2030.

FPL operates two units at Turkey Point that came online in 1972 and 1973, with total generation capacity of 1,600 MW. It also operates two units at the 2,000-MW St. Lucie Nuclear Plant on Hutchinson Island; Unit 1 entered service in 1976, and Unit 2 came online in 1983.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor. (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)