Florida Power & Light proposes country’s largest community solar project at 1,490 MW

Source: By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive • Posted: Friday, March 15, 2019

Community solar additions are estimated to reach up to 3 GW over the next several years, as the programs become popular ways for utilities to improve customer solar access and increase ratepayer options.

More than 40 states plus Washington, D.C. have at least one community solar program, according to a 2018 report from Vote Solar, but only 19 have policy-enabled solar markets.

Florida has what the report calls a “one-off program” — it does not enable third-party power-purchase agreements or have a statewide renewable portfolio in place, both considered “critical drivers for solar,” according to the report. Utility-driven solar installations largely propel growth in the state, which has approximately 2,290 MW of solar installed, according to SEIA.

The first six solar installations will generate 74.5 MW of solar across 300,000 panels each, scheduled to be operational in 2020, with the remaining 14 scheduled for operation in 2021. The utility said in its release that it has already secured the necessary land and will disclose locations at a later date.

Customers who subscribe to the SolarTogether project would sign up for a portion of new capacity, which they could cancel at any time. The utility estimates the project will save ratepayers $139 million “over the long term,” primarily through phasing out more expensive fuels.

FPL is one of the largest energy companies in the U.S., serving over 5 million customer accounts and generating approximately 7,477 MW of natural gas from its four gas-fired plants, making up a little over 70% of its electric power. Coal makes up 5.34%, coming from its one remaining Indiantown Cogeneration facility, which it plans to retire by the end of 2020.

The utility claims its 30-by-30 project will be the “largest installation of solar panels by a regulated utility in the world,” though environmentalists have noted the the project would “not make FPL a leader in solar watts per customer based on their size in the Southeast or the country.” Solar experts have estimated the project will mean an installation of 8 to 10 GW or more.

Over 200 of its customers have committed to the community solar project, including a number of universities, municipalities and businesses.