Thousands sought jobs to build FPL power plant
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Maybe they should have bought a lottery ticket instead.
When about 8,000 people flooded a job fair in April looking for work building Florida Power & Light Co.’s new solar-thermal plant near Indiantown, they knew the odds were slim. They were right.
Of about 700 workers at the plant now, 200 were hired from the job fair. That’s about 2.5 percent of those who came, eager to find work in an economy sucked dry of construction jobs.
Although the job fair attracted candidates from as far away as Maine, FPL says the majority of workers hired on the $476 million project are from Florida.
John Gnecco, FPL’s director of project development, estimates that about 420 – or 60 percent – are from the state, with most of those coming from the surrounding area.
Construction on the project, which is expected to require 1,000 workers over two years, has so far called for carpenters, iron workers, pipefitters, laborers, electricians and boilermakers, he said.
“There are a lot of different trades out there,” Gnecco said.
For skilled trade workers, the jobs start at $20 an hour. Lower-skilled positions start at $9 an hour.
Mike Green, a pipefitter from Okeechobee, was among the lucky ones.
The father of four didn’t attend the job fair in April, but he was one of about 60 to 70 pipefitters to find work at the plant. Having a job nearby is a relief after spending so much time on the road looking for construction work, he said.
“I was away from home a lot,” he said.
The Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, the largest and most expensive of Juno Beach-based FPL Group’s three solar projects, is expected to open at the end of 2010. Its other two projects are in DeSoto and Brevard counties.
The plant will generate an estimated 155,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year and power about 11,000 homes, according to FPL.