Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) last week said that it will likely open its 90,000-panel photovoltaic (PV) solar facility later this month. The DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Fla., project, which will overtake Nevada’s Nellis Solar Power Plant for the title of largest solar photovoltaic (PV) facility in the nation and in North America, will begin operation as other large U.S. solar projects are being shelved.

The DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center is one of three new commercial-scale solar power plants FPL is building in Florida, along with solar energy centers in Martin County and at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. An FPL solar plant in Brevard County is expected to be online by spring next year, and another one in Martin County will be completed by the end of next year. Combined, the three plants are estimated to cost $729 million. With a total capacity of 110 MW by the end of 2010, the plants are expected to make Florida the second-largest solar power-producing state in the country.

News of the new plant follows the cancellation of a 290-MW solar thermal plant planned by Starwood Energy Group Global and Lockheed Martin because the project was too financially risky. The companies that had already made a deal to sell power produced by that concentrating solar power (CSP) project to Arizona Public Service Co. (APS). The companies signed the agreement only this May.

Starwood and Lockheed’s Starwood Solar I facility would have been located in the Harquahala Valley, 75 miles west of Phoenix. The CSP power plant would have made use of 3,000, 100-meter parabolic troughs—a technology already operating in California’s Mojave Desert for the past three decades. It features curved mirrors that concentrate and direct the sunlight to heat oil-filled tubes running along the mirrors. The heated oil is used to generate steam to run a turbine for electricity generation.

 “APS understands that after the major subcontractor agreements were negotiated, the size and the final risk profile of the engineering, procurement and construction contract, among other factors, were the reasons Lockheed Martin decided not to go forward,” the utility said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin explained that the company’s risk assessment of the project showed that the likely cost of the project would be too high. “This decision was based primarily on the unexpected high supply base costs realized since the [power purchase agreement] signing, combined with the magnitude of this particular project. These factors increased Lockheed Martin’s risk profile and drove a cost structure that ultimately would make this project difficult to finance in today’s economic climate,” it said in a statement.

Sources: FPL, Starwood, APS, Lockheed Martin