Florida Power and Light (FPL) on Wednesday asked the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve a unique pilot program through which the company will build new solar facilities and participating customers will fund them via voluntary contributions. 

During the next three years, depending on customer participation, FPL projects that the program could support the construction of as many as 25 commercial-scale distributed solar arrays—each about 10 to 15 times larger than a typical residential rooftop installation—for an estimated total of up to 2.4 MW.

Unlike current solar rebate programs, “the pilot will not increase electric bills for customers who choose not to participate,” said FPL in a statement. Those customers that choose to participate will pay about $9 a month.

“We know that some of our customers have an affinity for solar power,but we also know that for a variety of reasons, many are not able to install it themselves. This pilot program will allow us, along with the PSC, to truly gauge customer interest in supporting solar power,” said FPL President Eric Silagy. “Ultimately, any program we offer must be designed to benefit all of our customers, and this voluntary, community-based solar program is designed with that goal in mind.”

FPL said the pilot program could begin accepting voluntary customer contributions in 2015, but that the company would provide the initial funding needed so that the installation of at least the first two of five solar arrays can begin in early 2015.

The company also said its parent company, NextEra Energy, would contribute a total $200,000 a year on behalf of the program to Florida-based environmental and community development groups. “Customers who sign up for the pilot will have the opportunity to select their preferred organization from a list of several well-recognized, reputable non-profits, including the Everglades Foundation, Save the Manatee Club and the Florida chapters of the National Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy,” FPL said.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)