Clean Power

Published on February 17th, 2016 | by Cynthia Shahan


Manatee County Groundbreaking: Tripling FPL’s Solar Photovoltaic (PV)

February 17th, 2016 by  

Last fall, noted a bump in solar growth in Manatee County, Florida, with Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) revealing 3 of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects were in development. Last week, FPL enjoyed the groundbreaking ceremony for the solar power plants. The most immediate to go online will be the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center and the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, with clean energy hitting our grid by the end of 2016. The FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center is the third power plant in this trio, and it is actually where the groundbreaking took place.

Together, these solar power plants result in a tripling of FPL’s solar PV power capacity.


As solar news goes, this is good. Still, the question: can the state do better? The previous SolarLove article noted, “Of course, it would also be nice if Florida supported rooftop solar. However, as you probably know, the state has been very unsupportive of rooftop solar, not providing incentives for homeowners like other states provide, and not even allowing for third-party solar ownership and sales (i.e., not allowing companies like SolarCity, Sunrun, Vivint Solar, and Sungevity to come in and offer solar leases and PPAs).”

Florida isn’t close to being a leader in total installed solar power capacity, and the story is even worse if you look at solar power per capita or per TWh of electricity generation. This is despite the fact that its nickname is The Sunshine State.

FPL’s argument is simple “Large-scale solar is by far the most economical way to advance solar energy for the benefit of all of our customers.”

The FPL newsroom reminds us, though, that Florida was a leader of sorts for a bit: “Six years ago, not far from here, FPL commissioned what was then the largest photovoltaic solar power plant ever built in the United States with 90,000 solar panels,” said Eric Silagy, FPL president and CEO. “Fast-forward to 2016, and we’re extending our leadership role in the renewable energy space by installing 1 million new solar panels.”

A nice plus is that 250 people (during the construction phase of the 3 new solar energy “centers”) will find work. As employees will come from the local communities, more locals will find financial improvement.


Continuing, FPL writes:

The FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center will consist of more than 338,000 solar panels over 762 acres – enough to cover 577 football fields. The other two solar plants are:

  • FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, which is being built on 841 acres in DeSoto County, Fla., near the site of FPL’s first large-scale solar power plant
  • FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, now under construction on 440 acres in Charlotte County, Fla., as part of the new Babcock Ranch sustainable community
  • When completed, each of the three new solar plants will have 74.5 megawatts of solar capacity.
  • These plants, along with several community-based, small-scale solar arrays and commercial-scale solar research installations that FPL is building, will combine for a total of more than 225 megawatts of new solar capacity by the end of this year. (current totals approximately 110 megawatts)

The environmentalist community in Florida is quite pleased with the progress. “This is a big step forward for our state and for the future of renewable energy in Florida,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. “FPL’s three solar plants help reduce the use of fossil fuels, prevent the emission of thousands of tons of carbon each year, and save millions of gallons of water.”

Check out this interesting graphic below, which was generated by typing in my zip code here to pull up a chart of Florida’s energy sources. Florida needs a lot more black and aqua on the graph. As one can see below, The Sunshine State is lagging behind the rest of the nation on renewables.

If you are in Florida — make sure you signed the grassroots push for a Florida constitutional amendment to grow solar power further.

Related Stories:

Florida Ballot Initiative

Florida Public Service Commission OKs FPL Plan To Purchase & Shut Down 250 MW Coal Plant, As Means Of Getting Out Of Costly PPA

3 FPL Solar Projects Advancing

Utilities & EVs (EV Obsession Video)

Top image, FPL’s Desoto solar plant, via FPL

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

is a Mother, an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropology Studies, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

  • Brooks Bridges


    Florida Supreme Court Clears Hurdle Out Of The Way For Solar Power To Flourish

    Solar power could soon be flourishing the Sunshine State. Thursday morning the Florida Supreme Court approved an initiative for the 2016 ballot that would allow Floridians to vote to reduce the state’s restrictions on rooftop solar power.

  • Armchair Hydrogeologist

    Are there special challenges to deploying rooftop solar in Florida? I would think there are many engineering and economic challenges that make it considerably less attractive than the southwest:
    1. For being named the “sunshine state” Florida actually has a lack of consistent sunshine compared to the southwest or plains states
    2. Hurricanes would likely destroy a large portion of the solar panels. Even though one can engineer a panel that can handle wind, it is difficult to handle wind-driven debris. Insurance covering the panels would likely be an important part of the financing picture.
    3. During hurricanes Solar panel racking systems would add a substantial wind load during hurricanes, both positive and negative, to the roofs. The roof flashing, framing, etc… details are already very complex in Florida and several building code issues and deficiencies in the already built environment are not resolved well. I don’t think it would be possible to have a perscriptive cookbook formula for racking a roof in coastal Florida that wouldn’t require a structural engineer’s wet-stamp.

    Hawaii has already added a lot of rooftop solar and Hawaii also has hurricanes (although less frequent that Florida) so other states have went down a different path. But Florida is a very big state with much cheaper energy costs than Hawaii.

    I’m unaware of sufficient experience with the existing rooftop racking systems and hurricanes yet experienced anywhere in the word.

    • Freddy D

      Those arguments have long been the whining siren song of the Florida (and Texas too) anti-solar movement. Hurricanes, hailstones, it rains, etc etc. As the facts become clearer, these places have extraordinary rooftop solar potential, well aligned with huge AC demand. Turns out that when insurance costs are amortized across the tiny percentage of panels destroyed every year, it all works out just fine. And as solar costs keep coming down, the value proposition just keeps getting better and better.

      Just ask anyone who lives there what their typical monthly bill is -$300, $500, $800 are all answers I’ve heard. And summer is long.

  • Brian

    Republicans are the problem. Like in Nevada, republicans are in the pockets of the dirty fossil fuel industry, and are fighting clean wind and solar tooth and nail, to make it as hard as possible for home owners to install solar power systems on their homes, so these greedy electric utilities can maintain their monopoly. Why are the voters in Florida so gullible and stupid, as to elect a republican?

    • Armchair Hydrogeologist

      Not to be contrarian, but a few points:

      (1) Texas is republican and if you look at ERCOT’s wind generation stats, Texas is generating A LOT of renewable, even compared to California. It is rarely mentioned here but Texas and much of “flyover” country are standout states on renewables in quantitative terms. True, they have a lot “fossil sin” to atone for though.
      (2) Tea-party-types like rooftop solar – perhaps they haven’t been as good as executing on policy as us moon-beamer types in California but they are a rooftop solar ally within a complex political party

      • John Moore

        Tea Partiers are not an ally. The Tea Party cares about their hatred for blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, gays, atheists, abortion and women. Period. They are not FOR anything. They will never support any politician who is for anything green unless that politician leads with hatred for everything listed above. There aren’t any of those. So let’s not be confused. The Tea Party will never lift a finger to do anything green. Ever. Ever.

        • Calamity_Jean

          Check out the Green Tea Coalition in Georgia.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Just a couple of points.

    Coal now produces about 34% of US electricity. And it likely to be under 30% soon.

    Because the Sun shines, on average, about 20% of the time a house that makes as much electricity as it uses is going to be producing about enough electricity for itself and four other houses. One out of five houses with solar would roughly cover solar for all houses/apartments. Not that many houses need to install solar to make solar a major player.

    • Lou Gage

      Thanks for the correction on coal generation of electricity. I wonder how much of solar generation of electricity is utility scale vs house hold.

    • Matt

      Want a sad face? Run the link above for the zip 45150 and enter Duke. That gets you into the Ohio are, and there is a lot of BLACK from coal. This region is much worse than the national average, and the Gov (yes that K guy that want to be the GOP candidate for pres) lower the clean energy standards in Ohio. We got to be first in something!

  • Freddy D

    The author is certainly kind and soft-spoken to anti-solar Florida. Adding 0.2 GW triples solar in the sunshine state? Please. It’s time to be more blunt and call the state out on the carpet for being anti-free market ( a term that will get under the skin of residents and politicians alike) and anti-solar.

    Sorry if I’m being blunt, but there are cases where tough love and honesty are called for.

    The state has huge solar resources and huge AC bills.

    • Harry Johnson

      I blame Florida voters. Unless you are a millionaire, there’s really only one party that doesn’t completely ignore your real needs.

      • Matt

        Yes, but the other party has done a great marketing job to convince people that they are the peoples party. After all it is the mega rich 0.001% that create all the jobs in the country.

        • Harry Johnson

          This is also the fault of voters.

  • walter

    Fpl’s argument is simple: large scale solar is by far the most economical way to advance solar energy for the benefit of FPL

  • jeffhre

    FPL’s argument is simple < “Large-scale solar is by far the most economical way to advance solar energy for the benefit of all of our customers. least likely method to interrupt our cozy regulated monopoly with nasty thoughts like incorporating any planning for democratizing energy for community members or any business model consideration which would quickly advance clean PV technology on customer rooftops”

    • Frank

      There is absolutely nothing sacred about that monopoly. “We the people” created it back in the day because it suited us. “We the people” can change it to something else if we want. I say start by making the monopoly part as small as possible, by disallowing the distribution to own or sell generation, and I think rooftop solar adds to resiliency.

      That said, I am glad that they added more solar.

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