Miami-Dade County’s energy grid is now relying in part on a new clean and plentiful source: the sun.
Florida Power & Light has finished installing nearly 300,000 solar panels at the new Miami-Dade Solar Energy Center in West Kendall. The utility says the solar farm will produce 75 megawatts of electricity, enough to power some 15,000 homes.
Standing in front of the solar farm on Tuesday, Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez said the panels will reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 12,000 cars off the road. Ultimately, FPL will install about a million panels across the county.
“The benefit that we get is clean, fresh air,” Gimenez said. “That’s not only for us, but also for future generations. We need to leave that kind of legacy for our children and grandchildren.”
The panels in Miami-Dade are part of FPL's new commitment to solar power.
Despite ranking eighth in the country for solar potential, Florida's embrace of solar has historically lagged. Just 1.07 percent of Florida's electricity is solar-powered, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The state does not have renewable energy standards that require utilities to source a certain amount of energy from solar or wind. Indeed, in 2015, energy companies pushed for a statewide ballot initiative that could have restricted third-party providers from installing solar panels.
But FPL has recently announced investments in the energy source. The utility, which mainly uses natural gas and nuclear power, said last month it wants to install 30 million panels across the state by 2030. The plan would increase solar energy to about 20 percent of FPL’s energy mix and would result in a 67 percent drop in carbon dioxide emissions, the utility said.
“We’re really excited to move Florida into a world leading position of solar,” FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said. “Now is the time because the prices have come down. We can do it affordable for customers.”
In addition to developing solar farms, FPL—which provides power to about half the state—plans to sell solar subscriptions to residents, businesses and governments to incentivize them to invest in solar. Participants could reduce their energy bills by paying solar energy fees that would fund the development of additional energy fields.
Other utilities have also announced projects and programs to increase solar use. Last year, Duke Energy announced plans to build a new solar power plant in Pinellas County that would power about 20,000 homes.
On Tuesday, Silagy said FPL will continue to explore and invest in other forms of renewable energy. The utility says it has been researching battery storage technology to help stabilize the energy grid.
“We are going to continue to push the envelope and continue to look and explore new ways to do things that haven’t been done before,” Silagy said.