Thursday, June 26, 2008

FPL Bringing Big Solar to Sunshine State


The Sunshine State could soon capitalize on its namesake and become one of the largest producers of solar energy in the country, if Florida utility FPL follows through on its plan to build three new solar power plants. FPL announced yesterday that it plans to generate 110 megawatts of solar capacity from three separate solar power plants - a 75 megawatt solar thermal plant at FPL’s existing Martin combined-cycle power plant, a 25 megawatt photovoltaic plant in DeSoto County, Fla. and a 10 megawatt photovoltaic plant at the Kennedy Space Center. FPL will build the plants and estimates the three projects will cost a total of $688 million.

FPL says that the 25 megawatt plant will be the largest photovoltaic plant in the world, just eking out the 21.5 megawatt plant SunEdison and Duke Energy claimed would be the largest last month. But neither are nearly as large as OptiSolar’s planned 550 megawatt photovoltaic plant. FPL says that these 110 megwatts, in addition to its subsidiary Beacon Solar’s plans for 250 megawatts of solar thermal power in California, make it the world’s largest producer of solar power.

FPL also claims to be the largest operator of wind energy in the country, a title it is battling with Spanish utility Iberdrola to keep. With so many gigantic wind and solar power projects in the pipeline we expect these superlatives to keep moving around.

While Florida does not have an official renewable portfolio standard the state’s Governor Charlie Crist has called on utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable sources and FPL says that these new solar projects will help meet that goal. The projects still need regulatory approval but FPL says they expect to being construction on the 25 megawatt PV farm by the end of the year and start work on the other two plants next year.

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