Florida utility moves from coal to solar

Florida Power & Light has closed one of the state’s largest coal plants and opened four new solar power plants. A further four new solar plants are on track to open by 1 March.

Last week, the ageing coal-fired power plant in Jacksonville, Florida was officially closed by co-owners Florida Power & Light (FPL) and JEA, the municipal electric provider for the City of Jacksonville. The approximately 1,300 MW plant was one of the highest-cost generating facilities to operate and maintain. By closing it, the two utilities except to prevent more than 5.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

To further serve its more than 10 million customers across nearly half of the state of Florida, FPL opened on 1 January four new solar power plants comprised of more than 1 million solar panels. The company expects to open four more solar plants by 1 March.

At 74.5 MW each, these solar plants – which encompass some 2.6 million solar panels – total nearly 600 MW of new, zero-emissions energy capacity.

“The truth is progress like this doesn’t happen by accident,” FPL president and CEO Eric Silagy said in a statement. “It’s because of our culture of responsible innovation and an unwavering commitment to customers that we’re able to deliver cleaner, more reliable energy while keeping electric bills among the lowest in the country.”

The new solar plants are expected to pay for themselves over their operational lifetime – and generate more than $100 million savings for FPL customers over and above the cost of construction.

“Any time we can replace less-efficient sources of energy with cleaner fuels or solar, it’s a benefit for people and nature,” said Greg Knecht, deputy executive director of the Florida chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

The Jacksonville coal plant is the second of three coal power plants that FPL is shutting down as it works to all but eliminate coal from its energy mix in the near future.


Image credit: U.S. Department of Energy

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