Solar Energy in the Sunshine State: FPL Leads the Way

Florida is known as “The Sunshine State,” so it’s no surprise that solar energy is growing rampantly across the state. Among the utilities adding solar resources to their energy mixes is Florida Power and Light Co. (FPL).

FPL claims to be the largest energy company in the U.S. as measured by retail electricity produced and sold. The company serves more than 5.6 million customer accounts supporting more than 11 million residents across Florida. FPL—a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy—says it operates “one of the cleanest power generation fleets in the U.S.”

“We are big fans of solar energy, and we’ve been working to advance solar in the state for more than a decade,” Jill Dvareckas, senior director of development with FPL, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “We currently have 37 solar energy centers in operation, with seven more under construction, which makes FPL the largest producer of solar power in Florida.”

FPL stuck its proverbial “toe in the water” back in 1984 when it constructed a 10-kW PV facility in Miami, but it didn’t really get serious about solar until 2009 when it built a 25-MW solar energy center in DeSoto County. Since then, 35 similarly sized installations (74.5 MW each) have been added.

“Our commitment to clean energy is evidenced by our groundbreaking ’30-by-30’ goal to install 30 million solar panels by the year 2030,” Dvareckas said. If the company succeeds in reaching that target, solar energy will make up about 20% of FPL’s power capacity at the turn of the decade.

In her position, Dvareckas is also responsible for the deployment of other cutting-edge technology, including electric vehicle (EV) and battery storage programs. “There’s no doubt that the electric transportation revolution is underway already,” she said. “FPL has been investing in clean transportation for over a decade. We were the first electric company in America to place the hybrid electric bucket truck into service in 2006.” Today, the company has one of the largest “green” fleets in the nation, with nearly 1,800 vehicles that are either biodiesel-fueled, plug-in hybrids, or EVs.

FPL also has an EV charging infrastructure pilot program, called FPL EVolution. “Our goal with the program is to install 1,000 charging ports in 100 locations in our service area across the state to increase the availability of universal EV charging by 50%,” Dvareckas said. Ultimately, more chargers means less range anxiety for EV owners, which many consumers cite as a reason for not wanting to purchase an EV.

“From our perspective, this is a pilot program that is really enabling us to learn as the utility ahead of mass adoption to ensure that the infrastructure upgrades and placement that we’re making in the future is done in a thoughtful manner that benefits all of our customers,” said Dvareckas.

During the podcast, Dvareckas shared details about FPL’s energy storage initiatives and also spoke about her journey to a position of leadership. She offered advice to other women striving to succeed in the male-dominated world of power generation. Among her suggestions, “work hard, speak up, and don’t compromise yourself.”

To hear the full interview with Dvareckas, listen to The POWER Podcast via your favorite podcast platform. Follow the links below to reach the show pages or click on the SoundCloud player to listen in your browser now:

For more power podcasts, visit The POWER Podcast archives.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).

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