A group of 12 municipal power companies in Florida have banded together to construct a massive 223.5 MW solar power plant to serve their customers. In cooperation with the Florida Municipal Power Association and Florida Renewable Partners, the project will cover an area the size of 900 football fields in Orange and Osceola counties with more than 900,000 solar panels — enough to power 45,000 homes.
Even though construction has just begun, there are already plans to expand the size of the solar power plant to 375 MW by 2023. Construction of the first phase of the project is expected be completed by the middle of 2020.
In a press release, Jacob Williams, general manager and CEO of FMPA said, “We are pleased to start construction on a project of this size, which will enable us to provide affordable, emissions-free solar power to our customers. By working together, the cities can build a larger, more efficient facility to help make solar energy cost effective.”
According to Florida Politics, the 12 systems participating are Alachua, Bartow, Beaches Energy Services of Jacksonville Beach, Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, Homestead, Keys Energy Services of Key West, Kissimmee Utility Authority, Lake Worth Beach, Ocala, Orlando Utilities Commission, Wauchula, and Winter Park.
This will not be just an ordinary solar array, however. The ground mounted solar panels will feature a computer controlled tracking system that allows them to follow the sun as it travels from east to west, maximizing power output. Buying and installing the solar panels in such large quantities and using technology to make them as efficient as possible, Florida Politics says, adding that solar power plants produce electricity for about one third the cost of rooftop solar systems
The builder, owner, and operator of the solar farms will be Florida Renewable Partners, a subsidiary of Next Era Energy, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from wind and the sun. NextEra is also the owner of Florida Power & Light and Gulf Power. FMPA is serving as the project coordinator and the 12 municipal utilities will purchase power from the project.
Florida utility companies have a long history of opposing rooftop solar systems, but NextEra has been much more willing to embrace utility scale solar power than many other utility companies that supply electricity to customers in Florida.