FPL’s solar panel innovation puts Florida on clean energy map

2014
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Florida Power & Light is working to improve all the time. In the last two years of watching it, FPL has really risen in the market as an innovator not only locally, but also throughout Florida. Great things are really happening and I have had the good fortune of witnessing them first hand.

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I have sometimes given them tough love in the past because they are so important to Florida and have so much potential. Today, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the company, in the areas of solar and electric car charging, is a leading innovator.

Because of FPL, Florida is becoming a world leader in clean energy and everyone flying in or out of the Miami International Airport (MIA) can see it.

Next time you fly, just look down. Floating in the waters of the adjacent Blue Lagoon office complex is a 402-panel solar array Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) operates in partnership with Miami-Dade County. I was at the ribbon cutting in January 2020 with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and it blew my mind. It was exciting to see all this technology floating in the water quietly, while producing tons of energy.

Then I went to the Zoo Miami to see another of FPL’s amazing installations. Along with the beautiful animals, Zoo Miami now has solar panels sitting atop a giraffe-printed stalk, making it one of 14 locations of solar trees and canopies FPL has installed as part of its SolarNow education program. This was such a creative idea, merging design and function into an amazing presentation that is just as important as anything in the market today.

In 2019, I joined a varied and powerful group of business owners as Mayor Gimenez spoke at FPL’s Miami-Dade Solar Energy Center with FPL CEO Eric Silagy. The roughly 300,000-panel solar center located off Krome Avenue generates enough energy to power about 15,000 homes. The same year, FPL announced a plan to install 30 million solar panels by the year 2030. It’s only 2021 and the company says it is already 40% of the way to reaching its goal, with over 40 solar energy centers in operation and 12 million solar panels installed.

That was another eye opener. I thought I had seen it all, but again FPL revealed something special that was another piece in the foundation of Florida as a sustainable energy leader. But there is more.

What’s even more encouraging is that FPL is looking beyond solar and into the future with battery storage. Locally, their battery storage projects include a microgrid built in partnership with Florida International University and a massive building-size battery equivalent to 5 million iPhone batteries in Wynwood.

If you’ve been to Wynwood lately, there’s a chance you missed the big batter project because it is behind a huge artistic mural. FPL commissioned Miami-based artist Ernesto Maranje to paint it.

It’s no surprise that FPL partnered with FIU because university President Mark Rosenberg is doing amazing things, raising the bar for excellence. As a graduate of FIU, I watch its performance carefully and I am always impressed.

Today, FPL says it’s also on track to set a world record for battery storage. FPL is constructing the world’s largest solar-powered battery on Florida’s west coast, which will be equivalent to 100 million iPhone batteries. The company also recently announced a green hydrogen pilot program, which could unlock the potential for a 100% carbon-free future.

Until then, FPL is working to tackle carbon emissions from cars through its EVolution electric vehicle (EV) charging program. It currently has seven EV charging stations operating in Miami-Dade, with a plan to install 1,000 charging ports at more than 100 locations across the state.

FPL is also contributing along with its Florida competitors to make the Sunshine State the most dominant solar player in the market. In fact, Florida will eclipse North Carolina for the most installed solar capacity in the Southeast this year (2021)[1], according to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

As a whole, Florida owes much of its credibility as a solar innovator to FPL’s rapid solar expansion and it will be exciting to see what new clean energy initiatives the company will be revealing next.

[1] https://cleanenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/Solar-in-the-Southeast-Report-June-2021.pdf


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