“FP&L’s token solar project” – a response from a reader.

Normally, when I get a response from an article I have written, I post it in the comment section.  But just the other day I received this response to my article about the President’s visit to FPL’s Solar Array in Desoto County in my email and I thought it deserved a little more attention.        

    Ms. Nilon,

I read your article about FP&L’s token solar project and the president’s visit and was inspired to make a comment. But first I’d like to preface my statement by saying that any solar is good solar and even FP&L’s less than cost effective attempt to dupe us into believing they actually have the best interest of Florida’s environment and it’s ratepayers in mind is still a baby step in the right direction so at least a little back slapping might be in order.  But the real truth is being hidden by the fanfare of this impressive project.

Large scale grid connected fields of photovoltaic is absolutely the least effective, most expensive application of renewable energy technology possible! Solar energy by its very nature is an abundant but diffuse energy resource that that does not lend itself well to efficient centralization and redistribution. Solar energy technology gives you 10 times or more energy per dollar when applied on a small scale basis at the point source of use. Put simply we should be feverishly working toward putting a solar water heater on every home in Florida long before we grid connect the first watt of photovoltaic to run all those electric water heaters!  This would displace the need to use the electricity before it is ever produced and help liberate ratepayers from the tyranny of corporate imperialism that is the investor owned utility. (IOU)

 OK, my last statement is just a little over the top but my point is, the goal to truly solve the environmental problems caused by over consumption of conventionally produced energy is in direct contradiction to the business model of investor owned utilities. Energy conservation and point source applications of existing renewable energy technologies is the only way we can achieve real energy independence but this approach will require a tremendous transfer of wealth from the utility industry to the general public and that’s why it’s not happening.

Why can a utility company get subsidies from the federal government to build inefficient projects like this while consumers can’t even get low interest financing on a solar water heater, attic insulation, or a more energy efficient air conditioner? Why can IOUs (Investor Owned Utility) bill consumers in advance for unnecessary nuclear power expansion when, for a fraction of the cost, we could be eliminating our need for that electricity thru conservation, efficiency upgrades, and low cost solar thermal applications?

Feeding the inefficient, centralized energy infrastructure we have in this country with renewably produced electricity will not solve the problem and is simply rearranging the lounge chairs on the Titanic.

We have to fundamentally change the way we use energy, not just the source of where we get it!

It’s time to embrace this reality, shatter the strangle hold the utility lobby has on our legislature and get down to making Florida a true leader in a new green economy and share the potential abundance with everyone.

 That’s my energy rant for today.

           Carter Quillen, P.E.
           Registered Professional Engineer
           Certified Master HVAC Technician

Mr. Quillen brings up a lot of good points.  Anyone want to weigh in? 

3 comments on ““FP&L’s token solar project” – a response from a reader.

  1. Marshmaid

    Susan, I agree completely with Carter. The PSC will take up FEECA tomorrow and some of them have been hinting at shaking things up a bit, recognizing that the public wants renewables. I hope they do. Five more years to wait for the next review is too long. We need the legislature to wake up also in the next session. Central power will never be the best means of achieving sustainability, even if it is solar. By decentralizing (distributing) energy production we can leave the greenfield sites alone and utilize rooftops, parking lots, and other already-disturbed areas for PV and solar thermal, and avoid tremendous line losses. Florida homes are great for this as the ratio of people to roof surface area is quite low. Combine that with efficiency, such as adding roof deck insulation, minimizes the AC demand. Pretty soon the big IOU cannot justify the need for a new power plant. Oh, but wait, that is where they make their unregulated profits; without that they would be limited to the percentage over cost they get selling kilowatt hours, the regulated part of the biz. No, that will never give Lew Hay his 7.5 M annually, nor support the 400 employees of FPL that make over $165K. It's a big ship to turn around. Rhonda

  2. Judson Parker

    I agree with Carter. The solar field is nice and brings critical attention to solar PV uses, but I personally think those panels should be on rooftops and we should focus our efforts instead on concentrating solar thermal; not only does it take up FAR less land space, but it also has a higher efficiency ratio. Not to mention point of production loss from not having those panels on top of 90,500 homes instead of out in a field where transmission lines add more to cost.

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