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The Biggest Solar Plant in the U.S. Set to Power Up Florida

Florida Power and Light has built a 25-megawatt system in Arcadia, Florida, southeast of Tampa. The project is completing testing and will soon go online, making it the largest solar installation in the U.S. The system will provide a source of renewable energy in a “Sunshine State” that’s only been using the rays for tans. Only 4% of Florida’s energy currently comes from renewable forms. Florida lawmakers haven’t given west coast incentives by any means either, which hasn’t helped.

President Obama plans to visit Florida Power and Light’s newest addition today, October 27, and Naplesnews.com reports that the town is buzzing with excitement over the president’s visit. Supporters of solar in the area are hoping that the president’s solar-friendly stance will help to push Tallahassee to fall in line and begin supporting renewable energy initiatives.

The project is part of two other similar projects by Florida Power and Light. Once all are completed, the cumulative total output of the facilities will reach 110 megawatts of power. The combined sites will also cut greenhouse emissions by 3.5 million tons, the equivalent of removing 25,000 cars from the road.

The Arcadia plant didn’t come cheaply at $150 million, and it’ll only provide power for about 3,000 homes of Florida Power and Light’s 4 million customers. But there are economic upsides to the project, such as providing 400 jobs for draftsmen, carpenters and the like who helped to install and draw up the plans for the system. Once up and running, the solar plant will require very few full-time personnel.

The U.S. still trails solar power panel production worldwide, and there was a time not so long ago when 1 megawatt was a big solar installation job. Things have changed - China has plans for a 2-gigawatt facility and has offered to pay up to 50% of installation costs on projects above 500 megawatts. Germany and Spain are the largest in Europe, thanks to their pro-solar governmental policies that have helped fund the boom in those countries over the last few years. Arizona-based First Solar, Inc. has approved plans to build a 48-megawatt facility in Nevada, but that’s still nowhere near China’s massive investment. To quote a modern country song, “We’ve still got a lot of boot left to fill.”

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