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.
Chief Development Officer
Florida Power & Light Co.