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3 Solar Plants for FPL Weighed

July 15, 2008

By John Dorschner, The Miami Herald

Jul. 15–State regulators on Tuesday will consider Florida Power & Light’s request to build three solar plants that would include the largest of its type in the world.

The staff of the Public Service Commission backs the request, saying FPL’s plans for 110 megawatts of solar power meet the requirements of a bill recently passed by the Legislature allowing for a utility to have full-cost recovery of renewable energy projects up to 110 megawatts.

The proposal includes a 25-megawatt plant in DeSoto County, which FPL says would be the largest photovoltaic facility in the world, plus a 75-megawatt solar thermal plant in Martin County and a 10-megawatt photovoltaic at the Kennedy Space Center.

Last September, Lew Hay, chief executive of FPL Group, the parent of the utility, attended an environmental conference in New York with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and former President Bill Clinton. Hay said FPL planned to build 300 megawatts of solar power in Florida.

FPL spokesman Mayco Villafana said in an e-mail to The Miami Herald on Tuesday that the company’s goal is still to build those 300 megawatts over the next seven years.

“We have not yet finalized the details on when the next phase of the expansion will take place,” he said. “. . . Between Florida and our national commitment (total 360 megawatts), we are now more than half way to meeting our 500 megawatt announcement we made at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative Forum.”

NUCLEAR PLANS

Even so, solar remains a small part of FPL’s plans to meet future energy needs. The utility is also seeking to build two nuclear plants at Turkey Point that would produce 2,200 megawatts — seven times the size of its solar goal for Florida.

The average FPL customer is expected to pay an extra $2.50 a month next year to fund construction of the nuclear plants, which may not be in operation for another decade. Such charges were mandated by a bill passed by the Legislature.

FPL estimates that the solar projects will add 83 cents a year to the average homeowner’s bill in 2011, the first year of full service for the three plants, and 31 cents a month over a 25-year period.

LEGISLATURE’S ROLE

At the last PSC hearing, Commissioner Nancy Argenziano complained that the Legislature had been taking actions on matters generally reserved for regulators.

“The Legislature has acted in three areas to eliminate ordinary shareholder and business risk, as a public policy matter, where utilities may have been reasonably expected to pursue an interest — storm cost recovery, construction related to nuclear facilities, and the costs of renewable projects up to 110 MW,” Argenziano said.

She asked at the July 1 meeting for a PSC review of all of FPL’s charges, but none of the four other commissioners joined her in the request.

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