Solar firm to supply FPL’s plants
By EVE SAMPLES
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
JUNO BEACH — A Silicon Valley-based firm has inked a deal to supply solar-power systems for Florida’s first large-scale photovoltaic plants, and it hopes to open a research and development center in the Sunshine State.
SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWRA, SPWRB) will provide solar panels and tracking systems to Florida Power & Light Co. and NextEra Energy Resources, both subsidiaries of Juno Beach-based FPL Group Inc. (NYSE: FPL, $50.60), the companies announced Thursday.
The contract runs from 2010 through 2012. FPL would not disclose the deal’s value.
Photovoltaic panels convert sunlight into electricity. Tracking systems allow the panels to follow the sun throughout the day.
SunPower is working with the utility to build photovoltaic power plants in DeSoto and Brevard counties, and the deal sets the stage for it to supply plants NextEra is planning in states such as Colorado, Arizona and New Jersey.
The 25-megawatt DeSoto plant, now under construction, will use 90,000 of SunPower’s photovoltaic panels on 180 acres. It is expected to provide enough electricity to power more than 3,500 homes.
The DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, as it is known, will be the largest photovoltaic facility in the country when completed late this year, according to FPL.
The Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Brevard County also will use SunPower’s systems. Construction is expected to start in the next few months.
Separately, SunPower wants to open a research and development center employing up to 50 people in Florida – so long as state leaders continue backing solar projects.
"We need the support of the Florida Legislature to continue to expand solar power here in Florida," FPL spokeswoman Jackie Anderson said.
That could mean renewable energy legislation or the approval of a renewable portfolio standard mandating that a percentage of the state’s power come from clean sources such as solar, she said.
The state, SunPower and FPL will work together to find a location for the R&D center. If demand remains strong in Florida, manufacturing and distribution centers for solar panels and tracking systems also may open in the state, the companies said.
"Our agreement with SunPower for competitively priced panels and systems represents a key milestone in the execution of our solar strategy," FPL Group President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Robo said in a statement.
"Our goal is to make Florida number one in the nation for solar," FPL’s Anderson said.