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Aluminum Plays Key Role in World's First Hybrid Solar Energy Plant

Florida Power & Light is building world's first hybrid solar energy and fossil fuel plant, using aluminum materialsA global aluminum company called Norsk Hydro is supporting green jobs in the U.S. through its Extrusion Americas unit, which operates 12 aluminum extrusion facilities in the U.S.  Two of the company’s southeastern U.S. facilities will supply aluminum frames and other parts for a new hybrid concentrating solar facility for Florida Power & Light.  Apparently the first power plant of its kind, the 500 acre solar thermal array will connect with an existing natural gas-powered plant, replacing the fossil fuel energy with solar energy during daylight hours.

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In addition to growing the U.S. green jobs sector, Hydro executive Matt Dionne points out that regional sourcing was an important factor in securing the contract because it cut energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions related to shipping, and it enabled the utility company to demonstrate its commitment to local economic growth.  The financial advantages of just-in-time delivery to the construction site also played a big role. As more utilities join the vanguard of sustainable energy investment, those benefits provide a stark contrast to the economic and environmental havoc wreaked by the world’s latest fossil fuel disaster.

Florida Power & Light and Solar Energy

The new solar array, located in Indiantown, will consist of 180,000 curved mirrors supported by aluminum frames manufactured by Hydro.  When completed, it will produce 75 megawatts.  It’s just the latest in a string of renewable energy investments for Florida Power & Light, which is also invested heavily in wind power along with other solar projects, including the world’s largest solar-thermal plant, a 310-megawatt behemoth in the Mojave Desert.  The company’s conservation programs have also helped enable it to avoid constructing new fossil fuel power plants since 1980.

Florida and a National Clean, Renewable Energy Policy

Years ago, the state of Florida chose not to invest its future in the risky business of offshore oil drilling, in favor of promoting a tourist industry that has an incentive to protect and preserve natural assets instead of destroying them. Governor Charlie Crist articulated that commitment when the new solar plant broke ground in 2008, stating, “Florida’s future growth and economic strength depends on how we address climate change, and we know we can reduce greenhouse gases by using fewer fossil fuels and more natural energy sources like solar.” Despite its foresight, Florida will suffer from the effects of the BP oil spill along with the rest of the Gulf coast states.  It’s a clear demonstration of the need for a strong national clean energy policy that unites all 50 states toward a common goal.


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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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