January 31, 2020

EDITORIAL: Partnerships in solar work, just look at FPL

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

1/30/20, Sun Newspapers

OUR POSITION: Let’s give credit when credit is due and applaud Florida Power & Light for its aggressive approach to harnessing solar energy.

We never hesitate to criticize Florida Power and Light utility for what sometimes appears to be a greedy business model. So it is only fair we heap some praise on them for their innovative foray into solar power projects.

Those who have lived in Southwest Florida for any length of time know that FPL has partnered with Syd Kitson and Babcock Ranch to create what might be, and surely one day will be, the largest solar-powered city in the nation. Kitson, the man behind Babcock Ranch, has never been short of praise for the utility company and its role in making Babcock a reality.

It wasn’t long ago that news spread about new batteries that had been produced to enable Babcock to store more power than ever. Progress like that is pushing the community ever closer to being truly solar powered 24 hours a day.

Just this week we learned of another solar project FPL has initiated.

The state’s largest electric company — and arguably the largest in the U.S. — has built a half-acre, 402-panel floating solar installation into the waters next to Miami International Airport. The solar panels are quite obvious to most people flying into the airport and to motorists on the 839 West/Dolphin Expressway.

Modest in size compared to something like Babcock Ranch, the solar panels at the airport generate 160 kilowats of power and lessens the carbon dioxide emissions by 165 tons annually. Babcock, on the other hand, has a 440-acre solar field with 340,000 solar panels that produce 4.5 megawatts of energy.

Florida Power & Light Company President and CEO Eric Silagy said the project shows the company’s commitment to making Florida a “world leader in solar generation.”

We’ve always said the Sunshine State is the obvious place to lead the conversion to solar power. How soon, or even if, that happens we couldn’t guess. But if FPL is truly on board to be the nation’s solar champion, we couldn’t be happier.

Silagy noted FPL has 18 solar plants in operation now and 10 more scheduled to come online this year. There is a plan in place to install 30 million solar panels in the state by 2030, according to a press release.

Like with Babcock Ranch, FPL and Miami-Dade County have proven to be good partners when it comes to solar energy.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez said the nation’s first floating solar array at an airport is a good example of what the future could hold. Gimenez praised the partnership with FPL in a press release and said the county and power giant share a “like-minded vision.”

That vision includes a solar energy center in southwest Miami-Dade capable of producing electric to 15,000 homes. FPL has built smaller solar installations in Miami-Dade and right here in our backyard in DeSoto County. These projects raise awareness of the clean alternative energy solar can provide.

All this good news is just proof of how utilities, if they commit to it, can shape the future of clean energy in the nation and world. Kudos to FPL.