FPL’s response to a reader on the DeSoto Solar project

I received a request from FPL today to publish their response to an earlier post from a reader concerning FPL’s solar facility in DeSoto County.  I am happy to oblige.


The letter you recently published from a reader included claims that large scale solar projects like the one FPL just completed in DeSoto County are not cost-effective. This simply is not the case nor supported by the facts. FPL’s solar projects benefit from economies of scale in equipment and construction costs and also incorporate more advanced and highly efficient technology to make them very cost-effective for customers. In fact, our bills are the lowest in the state and below the national average and solar projects like the DeSoto Energy Center only serve to enhance our position as an industry leader.

For example, the panels installed at FPL’s DeSoto plant have an efficiency rating of 18.7 percent, and they also track the sun throughout the day to maximize the sunlight they can capture, providing up to 30 percent more energy per panel. By comparison, the panels typically installed on residential buildings usually have an efficiency rating of 12 to 15 percent and are fixed in one position, making them much less efficient.

Also, the federal government offers important tax incentives to utilities that build renewable energy projects, which reduces the cost to customers for commercial-scale solar power even further.

As stated above, buying solar panels by the tens of thousands, rather than a couple at a time, provides economy of scale savings that result is significant cost reductions. Finally, the cost to install panels in at large scale solar facility is much lower when compared to the costs of uniquely designing, engineering and installing small, one-off systems on individual roof tops, particularly with Florida’s strict, storm related, building codes.

But perhaps the greatest benefit of large-scale solar projects is the boost they can provide to the local economy. The Desoto plant alone created more than 400 construction jobs, and if the Florida legislature continues to support renewable energy, thousands more construction jobs can be created quickly last for years. More importantly, Florida can become a magnet for solar manufacturers, research and development centers and assembly facilities, bringing even more jobs to the area and developing a true clean energy economy in the Sunshine State that will establish the state as a world leader.

However, solar is not the answer to every energy problem. Solar power can only produce energy when the sun is shining, so we have to pursue other types of clean energy solutions such as nuclear power at the same time. We also have to focus on ways to encourage and increase energy conservation. FPL actually has the nation’s leading energy efficiency program and has been able to eliminate the need to build 12 medium-sized power plants over the past three decades which has saved FPL customers billions in capital spending. Programs such as this need continued focus, and we also need to increase investments in technology such as smart meters that give customers more visibility and control over their energy usage to help increase conservation and infrastructure intelligence for more efficient, more reliable service.

There is no one silver bullet solution to our nation’s energy issues, but when you look at the vast benefits, commercial-scale solar power is definitely an important part of the mix.

Thank You.

Eric Silagy

Chief Development Officer

Florida Power & Light Co.

6 comments on “FPL’s response to a reader on the DeSoto Solar project

  1. Anonymous

    The recently announced Blyte, California 21MW solar farm using fixed plate (ie non-tracking) panels, is advertised to produce 45,000MWh/yr.The 25MW Dsoto plant with single axis tracking is advertised at 42,000MWh/yrBlyte gets 2142kWh/m2/yr, DeSoto 1900kWh/m2/yr, so what gives? DeSoto should be doing closer to 60,000MWh/yr

  2. Marshmaid

    While we wish the general public would read blogs such as this on a regular basis, I doubt this is happening yet. Mr. Silagy's self-serving PR is misplaced here as he is fooling no one. His only point with which I agree is that Florida can and must invest in solar on a grand scale which will certainly provide jobs. Personally I think that if the IOUs installed solar water heaters and PV on every Florida rooftop at their own expense it might just be adequate retribution for all the water wasted to cooling and air and water polluted thus far by their construction and operation of central, dirty plants. In reality, however, I feel strongly that it is imperative that the PSC and Legislature rewrite the regs THIS YEAR such that solar thermal and PV development become an economic, environmental and social benefit to the utilities and citizenry alike.

  3. Anonymous

    I agree, solar, wind, geothermal and efficiency can easily handle our baseload energy, especially distributed on rooftops and over existing parking lots in many forms. Dow even has rooftop solar shingles coming on the market soon. Yes, and how about solar thermal that can run all night? Nuclear would be fine, except for any one of the 4W's – WASTE (radioactive for thousands of years, no where to store it long-term), WATER (each reactor evaporates millions of gallons of water PER REACTOR PER DAY, crazy in times of water wars and drought in the South), WEAPONS (It would be hard for Iran to claim they needed to enrich uranium for solar panels!) and WALL STREET wouldn't touch nukes unless they were subsidized by taxpayers (think pre-bailouts) New nukes are far too risky for private investors without receiving government corporate welfare!So, FPL, check out reliable, in progress plans like Google Energy or http://www.carbonfreenuclearfree.org or feed-in-tariffs like Gainesville Regional Utility has done or cloudy Germany. If you need any other options, see Renewable Energy World rew.com trade organization for thousands of green options, trade shows, suppliers, etc. FPL, let's get into real solutions, not more of the same old energy in a new package. thank you. A shareholder, a ratepayer and a taxpayer.

  4. Carter

    Rebuttal to FPL's response:That all sounds pretty good and I can't dispute most of the selective, irrelavant, and self serving "facts" that Mr. Silagy has pointed out, however, I stand by my contention that you get 10 times the energy per dollar from point source applications of solar thermal technology and conservation than you do from large scale photovoltaics. Plus, who's to say we couldn't be buying tens of thousands of "more advanced and highly efficient" PV panels and applying them at the point source of use, instead of large scale fields, thus achieving similar ""economies of scale". Furthermore,please consider, when you deploy solar thermal technology you actually do get to use the energy you collected when the sun is not shining because you have stored it for use after the sun has gone down. Likewise, with small scale PV applications that employ energy storage. Thus negating the need for even more power plant construction because you are effectively using solar energy to displace base load. Something a large scale PV project does not do. And Mr. Selagy has convieniently left out the "fact" that you don't have transmission losses when you apply solar at the point source of use. Please figure that into the cost comparison.And lets not forget that you get the same tax credits when you apply solar in a decentralized energy infrastructure that you do with centralized,large scale utility projects.Mr. Selagy also needs to recheck some of his "facts". FP&L actually has one of the worst performing energy conservation program in the nation. Maybe they could have eliminated the need for 50 medium-sized power plants in the last 30 years if their conservation programs where a bit more than rate payer financed public relations campaigns. Let's face it, when you put the investor owned utility in charge of your conservation programs, you have put the fox in charge of the hen house. And finally, his contention that the greatest benefit of large-scale solar project is "job creation" is a bit misleading too. Far more jobs could be created building a decentralized energy infrastructure and aggressively applying conservation technology.Any real solution to the environmental problems created by our societies energy consumption will have to come from the bottom up, not the top down. Nuclear energy is NOT "clean"! Just because it doesn't emit CO2 does not make it green! It may be more convienient and profitable for the utilities but in the full life cycle cost analysis, nuclear is our most expensive, not to mention dangerous, option. There is no doubt we could meet our energy needs without nuclear power, it just wouldn't be nearly as profitable for power companies or as costly for ratepayers. And lets remember, it's the ratepayers that are paying the bill.Carter Quillen,PEDecentralized Energy Infrastructure Advocate

  5. Anonymous

    Eric makes some very good points about the cost-effectiveness of large scale solar projects. Ultimately though, solar's distribution benefit can only be realized if the small guy (you and me) has incentive to install a solar system on our property. While nuclear represents a good portion of our power already, it should be the last option, not the first. FPL has a poor track record on energy efficiency. Efficiency should be the first "fuel" choice, with solar a close second. Serious investment in those would negate the need for costly nukes.

  6. Judson Parker

    To my understanding (after working out the math – $150 mil/ 4.5 mil customers), the solar plant costs approximately 6 cents a month over the next 25 years. So that's pretty cheap.But, I think the main thing the reader you are responding to was saying, as well as my follow up, is that PV seems to be more of a solution for localized energy, whereas concentrating solar thermal (CST) takes up MUCH less acreage, is highly more efficient, and thermal storage can allow it to run into the night… making it seem much more attractive as an FPL project than a PV field. I disagree that we need nuclear considering the high cost of subsidies, land use based on mining as well as the plant, waste production, etc. There are MANY renewable sources of energy which have not even been touched on, and it is unfortunate that PV seems to be the only pursuit of FPL in regard to renewables at this time.

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