Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) today filed a proposal with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) for a new community solar program that would offer FPL customers the opportunity to directly participate in Florida’s transformation to a world leader in solar energy. Through this voluntary program, participating customers will help accelerate the growth of solar in Florida by subscribing to a portion of new solar power capacity, and in return, they will receive credits that are expected to reduce their monthly bills over time. This will be another piece of the utility’s 30 by 30 plan.
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s executive director Dr. Stephen A. Smith offered this statement:
“We believe this will be a significant move to provide low-cost solar power to a wider range of customers throughout Florida. We believe that this program, coupled with FPL’s previously announced 30 x 30 commitment to utility-scale solar, shows that the utility is serious about advancing solar power in Florida. This program appears to make clean, solar power more widely available in the Sunshine State.”
FPL SolarTogether will significantly expand solar energy in Florida. Pending PSC approval, FPL plans to install 1,490 megawatts of new universal solar at 20 new solar power plants across FPL’s service territory to meet anticipated customer enrollment in the program. Built cost-effectively, the new solar power plants attributed to the program are projected to generate an estimated $139 million in net savings for customers over the long term, primarily from avoided fuel and other system savings. Participating customers will receive direct credits for the savings on their monthly bills, and the program is designed to also contribute a portion of the savings to all customers, which will help keep fuel costs low for everyone.
If approved, FPL SolarTogether will be the largest community solar program in the United States. According to the Solar Energy Industry of America’s latest information, a total of 1,298 megawatts of community solar has been installed in the U.S. through the third quarter of last year.
“This program will more than double the amount of community solar currently in the U.S.,” said Silagy. “More importantly, FPL SolarTogether will allow individual customers to personally support Florida’s affordable, clean energy revolution while lowering their electric rates and bills over the long term.”
Key program design points
FPL studied community solar programs offered throughout the country, including Florida. The result is a next generation solar option for customers that offers flexibility, convenience and is not subject to the confines of their location. Program participants will not be tied to a long-term contract and can terminate or reduce their subscription at any time.
In addition, because the subscription is associated with a customer account and not a physical address, program participants who move within FPL’s service area can maintain their subscription benefits. FPL expects program participants to achieve a simple payback on their subscription within seven years. FPL also will retire Renewable Energy Certificates or RECs on behalf of participants who are looking to meet sustainability goals.
In order to gauge potential customer interest in a program like this, FPL has been working with its largest energy users, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. More than 200 of FPL’s largest energy users – including municipalities, large national retail chains, universities, banks, restaurants and schools – have committed to participate, providing the foundation for such a large program.
The first six solar plants, each of which will have about 300,000 solar panels and be capable of generating 74.5 megawatts of solar, are scheduled to be operational in early 2020, with the remaining 14 facilities planned for 2021. FPL has already secured enough land to build all of these plants and the company plans to announce the individual locations in the future.
“FPL’s SolarTogether program provides an innovative approach to addressing business and residential needs for embracing clean energy in Florida and cost-effectively expanding the Sunshine State’s renewable energy footprint,” said Tim Center, executive director of Tallahassee-based, Sustainable Florida. “This initiative chalks up major wins for Florida’s environment and sustainability.”
— Solar Builder magazine