Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) has officially announced the opening of four new solar power plants comprised of more than 1 million solar panels and the retirement of one of Florida’s largest coal-fired power plants. According to the utility, these advancements will further improve FPL’s carbon emissions profile, which is already approximately 30% cleaner than the U.S. industry average.
On Jan. 1, the following new plants began powering FPL customers: the FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center located in Alachua and Putnam counties; FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center in Putnam County; FPL Indian River Solar Energy Center in Indian River County; and FPL Wildflower Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County.
The utility also expects to complete construction on another four solar plants soon. At 74.5 MW each, the eight solar plants – which encompass approximately 2.6 million solar panels – will total nearly 600 MW of new zero-emissions energy capacity. The utility first announced the projects earlier this year, and they are part of FPL’s larger plan to add more than 10 million solar panels from 2016 to 2023.
FPL says its new solar plants are designed to effectively pay for themselves over their operational lifetimes. In fact, the eight solar plants entering service in 2018 are projected to generate more than $100 million in savings for FPL customers over and above the cost of construction, according to the utility.
In addition, the aging coal-fired St. Johns River Power Park in Jacksonville, Fla., was officially retired last week by co-owners FPL and JEA, the municipal electric provider for the City of Jacksonville. FPL says the approximately 1.3 GW plant served customers of the two utilities well for many years, but it was no longer economical to operate – the plant was one of the highest-cost generating facilities to operate and maintain for both FPL’s and JEA’s systems. Closure of the plant is projected to prevent more than 5.6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and save FPL customers an estimated $183 million.
In 2016, FPL shut down the Cedar Bay Generating Plant, another coal plant located in Jacksonville – preventing nearly 1 million tons of carbon emissions annually and saving customers a projected $70 million, according to the utility. In addition, FPL plans to phase out its last coal plant in Florida, the Indiantown Cogeneration plant, which is projected to prevent more than 657,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and save customers an estimated $129 million.
“The truth is progress like this doesn’t happen by accident. It’s because of our culture of responsible innovation and an unwavering commitment to customers that we’re able to deliver cleaner, more reliable energy while keeping electric bills among the lowest in the country,” says Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL.
In November, FPL also announced a partnership with environmental groups to help make its solar project sites bird and pollinator friendly.
Julie Wraithmell, interim executive director of Audubon Florida, comments, “FPL has a forward-looking strategy of making smart, innovative, long-term investments, including solar, to reduce emissions while providing affordable clean energy for its customers.”
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical to addressing climate change,” adds Greg Knecht, deputy executive director of the Florida chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “Any time we can replace less-efficient sources of energy with cleaner fuels or solar, it’s a benefit for people and nature. Investments such as FPL’s in clean energy technologies are key to Florida’s future health and prosperity.”