Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) has announced another milestone in its long-term strategy of delivering affordable clean energy to customers: the creation of the largest solar-plus-storage system built in the U.S. to date. This innovative system incorporates a 10-MW/40-MWhr battery-storage project into the operations of the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, a 74.5-MW solar power plant that FPL built in 2016 in Charlotte County, Florida.
“FPL is building an incredible amount of solar power cost-effectively so we can bring the economic and environmental benefits to all of our customers while keeping their bills among the lowest in the nation. At the same time, we continue to innovate every single day, and the new system we unveiled today is a shining example of how we’re changing the current,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL.
The batteries are capable of storing power generated by the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center during the day when the sun is shining. The stored solar power then can be dispatched to the grid to supplement dips in the plant’s operation – such as when clouds roll in and temporarily reduce the sunlight reaching the plant’s panels.
The stored power can also be dispatched during periods of peak customer electricity demand, such as summer afternoons and evening hours when the sun is going down but air conditioning needs remain high.
“FPL has been an outstanding partner in our mission to make Babcock Ranch the most innovative, sustainable town in the nation. Improving technologies for energy storage are moving us ever closer to our goal of full reliance on clean, renewable energy. As home to the largest solar-plus-storage system operating in America, we are proud to be leading the way,” said Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners and founder of the town of Babcock Ranch.
FPL and other NextEra Energy companies are actively researching and testing battery-storage technologies to study a variety of potential benefits ranging from grid stabilization to improved solar integration. Currently, NextEra Energy companies operate a total of approximately 140 MW of batteries with more than 150-MWhr of storage capacity.
The cutting-edge project is the latest in FPL’s growing battery portfolio, which includes several projects across Florida.
Last month, FPL announced the first-of-its-kind large-scale application of “DC-coupled” batteries at a solar plant in the country – a 4-MW/16-MWhr storage system located at the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County, Florida. During optimal operating periods, a solar plant may generate more power than its inverters can process. DC-coupled batteries can harness the surplus energy that would otherwise be lost or “clipped” by the inverter and could be an advantageous application in appropriate settings.
In 2016, FPL commissioned several battery-storage pilot projects to test different applications under real-world operating conditions. Systems are currently being tested at Everglades National Park’s Flamingo Visitor Center, the Crandon Tennis Center on the island of Key Biscayne as well as other locations across south Florida. Learnings from these pilots are being applied to FPL’s future plans.
Under the rate agreement supported by the state’s consumer advocate and approved unanimously by the Florida Public Service Commission in 2016, FPL plans to develop 50 megawatts of battery storage over the next few years.
Four new solar energy centers coming in 2019
FPL currently operates 14 solar power plants across Florida, and earlier this month, the company announced the locations of its next four new solar power plants, which are expected to begin powering customers by the spring of 2019. These new sites are:
- FPL Interstate Solar Energy Center, St. Lucie County
- FPL Miami-Dade Solar Energy Center, Miami-Dade County
- FPL Pioneer Trail Solar Energy Center, Volusia County
- FPL Sunshine Gateway Solar Energy Center, Columbia County
FPL’s solar expansion plays a significant role in its forward-looking strategy of making smart investments that generate affordable clean energy for customers. FPL has been working for several years to find ways to reduce costs in order to bring more universal solar to its customers cost-effectively. This month, the company implemented a rate decrease, and its typical customer bill is now approximately 30 percent lower than the national average – lower than it was more than 10 years ago.
Each of the new solar plants will have a capacity of 74.5 MW. Combined, they are expected to generate enough energy annually to power approximately 60,000 homes and, over their operational lifetime, produce net savings for FPL customers of $40 million. The net savings are due to several factors including system fuel savings.
Construction is expected to commence later this year. At the height of construction, each of the sites is expected to employ about 200 people, for a total of approximately 800 jobs.