Florida Power & Light wants to build 30 million solar panels by 2030: What it would mean for your power bills
Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light and its parent company NextEra Energy, intend to expand its fleet of solar panels to 30 million by 2030 to reduce carbon emissions and, eventually, power bills.
The effort from Florida's largest power company would reduce the company's overall carbon emissions by 67 percent, FPL President Eric Silagy said.
"I think everyone is interested in being environmentally friendly whenever they can, whether that's individuals, cities or corporations," Silagy told The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday. "The challenge becomes making sure it can be done cost-effectively."
A solar farm could crop up in western Palm Beach County, after FPL bought 1,288 acres near The Acreage for $19.3 million last year. The company, which has been amassing land throughout the state in anticipation of the solar expansion, wants to add to its 18 solar farms to more than 100 by 2030, Silagy said. When the solar energy produced is eventually added to the electrical grid, it should save FPL customers money.
While the company builds its solar empire, it's also launching an energy subscription service called "Solar Together," that allows eco-conscious customers to pay for up to 100 percent solar energy.
FPL is awaiting permission from the Florida Public Service Commission but is pre-registering large customers through January. Broward County and the cities of Delray Beach, West Palm Beach and Sarasota are among the large power consumers that have agreed to subscribe when the program launches in 2020.
Delray Beach, which agreed Tuesday to register for Solar Together, wants to power the city entirely by solar energy by 2020.
"We are the Sunshine State and we aren't even taking advantage of that sunshine," Deputy Vice-Mayor Shirley Johnson said.
Newly elected Gov. Ron DeSantis lauded FPL in a statement released by the utility.
"FPL's initiative is important," DeSantis said. "As Florida's energy needs continue to grow at a rapid pace, it is important that we diversify our energy resources. This is vital to the economic well-being of our state and quality of life for residents."
Florida Power & Light said the expansion, labeled the "30-by-30" plan, would propel the company to a spot as one of the leading providers of solar energy in the nation.
Some, however, are taking a more wait-and-see attitude on the ambitious effort.
Stephen Smith -- who heads the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a coalition that has sparred with Florida Power & Light and other major utilities over solar energy — commended FPL, but emphasized that Florida and FPL still lag far behind others in clean energy efforts.
"This is great news and I want to be positive about the fact that FPL growing their commitment to solar is good for Florida, good for Florida customers and good for Florida's environment," said Smith, who is based in Tennessee. "But I think they're overselling it."
Florida was eighth in the nation last year in solar energy production, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, which monitors and ranks states.
"We lag far behind states like North Carolina," Smith said.
The addition of millions of solar panels will help improve Florida's standings, FPL said. And it could help repair the utility's rocky history with solar energy in Florida.
FPL and other utilities have faced intense criticism for backing initiatives that would limit small-scale solar expansion, particularly a controversial 2016 constitutional amendment that failed.
The amendment tried to raise fees on solar users and keep out companies that want to compete with the utilities.
Smith, who fought the ballot initiative, said solar expansion is positive "but it's always important that the choice is in the hands of the customers."
Florida Power & Light allows homeowners and businesses with solar panels to plug into its electrical grid so they can earn credit or cash for extra energy the panels produce, a practice known as net-metering.
The utility supports rooftop solar panels, but doesn't believe that non-solar "customers should subsidize" the practice, Silagy said.
"Solar is no longer a struggling, nascent technology that's kind of experimental," Silagy said. "It's mainstream and doesn't need a subsidy in order to be deployed."
Eliminating net-metering is one is one of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's chief concerns, Smith said.
"That would be a clear and present danger to remove customers' choices for solar," Smith said. "Utilities want everyone to buy power from them, so of course they push to limit solar options to just utilities."
This article is written by Lulu Ramadan from The Palm Beach Post and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.