Florida Power and Light Co. (FPL) has been building new solar farms and bringing gigawatts of new natural gas-fired generation capacity online in recent years. Now the utility has announced what it calls the world’s largest solar-powered battery storage system.
FPL on March 28 said the Manatee Energy Storage Center, a 409-MW/900-MWh battery storage facility, would begin operations in late 2021. The batteries will be charged by an existing FPL solar power plant in Manatee County, Florida. The new facility would have four times the storage capacity of the world’s current largest battery system at the Hornsdale Power Reserve in Australia.
“This is a monumental milestone in realizing the full benefits of solar power and yet another example of how FPL is working hard to position Florida as the global gold standard for clean energy,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL, in a statement. “Even as we aggressively execute on our plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030, we never lose sight of finding innovative ways to bring our customers the benefits of solar energy, even when the sun’s not shining. Replacing a large, aging fossil fuel plant with a mega battery that’s adjacent to a large solar plant is another world-first accomplishment and while I’m very pleased of that fact, what I’m most proud of is that our team remained committed to developing this clean energy breakthrough while saving customers money and keeping their bills among the lowest in the nation.”
FPL, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc., said using energy from batteries during periods of high demand for electricity is more cost-effective than running fossil fuel-powered plants, and would also help the utility reduce emissions, with estimated savings to ratepayers of $100 million.
Utility officials have said the new battery storage facility is part of an “innovative modernization plan” that will help FPL speed the timetable for retirement of two natural gas-fired units at the nearby 1,638-MW Manatee Power Plant in Parrish. FPL brought a 74.5-MW solar farm online in Parrish in 2017, part of a plan to add 1.5 GW of solar generation capacity in the next few years.
A second 74.5-MW solar farm in Manatee County, the Southfork Solar Energy Center, is expected to come online in 2020.
FPL in a statement said the modernization plan includes the new energy storage system in Manatee County, along with smaller battery installations across the state, and efficiency upgrades to existing turbines at its gas plants.
FPL has ramped up its solar power portfolio in recent years as it has retired older coal and natural gas-fired plants. The utility earlier this year announced a plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030. It also is adding gas-fired generation capacity.
“FPL is pioneering a clean energy revolution for our state that’s come full circle for our community,” said Stephen Jonsson, chairman of the board of Manatee County commissioners. “It seems like just yesterday that FPL kicked off its massive solar expansion in 2016 by opening a solar power plant in Parrish. Fast forward a few years, and our hometown solar power plant is on the verge of powering the world’s largest solar-powered battery system. This modernization plan is truly an incredible feat and consistent with our commitment as leaders to keep sustainability at the forefront of every project that takes place in Manatee County. It’s why we continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with FPL to help do our part to shape Florida’s clean energy future.”
FPL closed two coal plants in Jacksonville in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Its lone remaining coal-fired plant, the 330-MW Indiantown Cogeneration facility—which it purchased for $451 million in 2016 from Calypso Energy Holdings—is scheduled to close in the next year.
—Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).