FPL ready to shine
Florida Power & Light’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia is nearly finished — ahead of schedule.
DESOTO COUNTY — Florida Power & Light announced Wednesday it was moving faster than expected on construction of its DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County.
Some customers could be receiving electricity from the plant later this month, said FPL spokesperson Jackie Anderson on Wednesday.
FPL is building three of these large-scale commercial renewable solar power plants.
"Large-scale commercial" means the plant is connected to the nation-wide grid.
The other two solar energy centers are in Martin County and at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
At completion, FPL said in a press release, the three solar plants will generate a total of 110 megawatts of capacity by the end of next year.
Anderson said the NASA plant should be completed by next spring and the Martin County plant is expected to be up and running by the end of 2010.
The electricity produced by the DeSoto plant will not be used just to supply nearby Arcadia, but will go into the national electrical grid and could go almost anywhere.
Local job seekers who hoped to find jobs at the DeSoto County plant may be disappointed. The plants are technology-heavy and will employ only a limited number of skilled employees.
FPL said construction of the solar energy center benefited DeSoto County when it created 400 jobs during construction.
Anderson said that the completed plants will not create a significant increase in local jobs in DeSoto County.
"Local economic effects peak during construction and then fall off as workers leave for other jobs," she said. Anyone interested in employment at the DeSoto plant could visit the FPL jobs Web site at FPLcareers.com, said Anderson.
If all works out according to plan, Florida could become the second largest solar power-producing state in the country.
The largest solar plant in the country is in California, where a solar thermal plant belonging to Florida Power & Light Group located in the Mojave Desert is using solar thermal technology to harvest solar energy.
Solar photovoltaic technology, as used in DeSoto, converts light into electricity through the use of battery cells. Solar thermal plants use mirrors to collect the heat energy of the sun. The use of solar technology to produce electricity has the advantage of not requiring water use and not giving off harmful emissions.
All three Florida plants were approved by the Public Service Commission. The costs of construction have already been built into electricity rates and are expected to come to about 31 cents a month for the average household.
DeSoto County Commissioner Ronald Neads, who has been a staunch supporter of the DeSoto solar power plant, located a few miles north of Arcadia, said he had little information regarding the completion of the DeSoto plant. Neads confirmed that while the plant will not be employing a significant number of local workers, the DeSoto County property appraiser’s office told him DeSoto County could receive $2 million in tax revenues annually from this facility by the end of 2010.
Neads said a grand opening for the DeSoto plant had been tentatively scheduled for Oct. 20.
DeSoto County Commissioner Jerry Hill said he was glad to hear that FPL was ready to start up the plant. "I hope we can get more those power plants," he said.
By JOHN LAWHORNE, Staff Writer