Florida Power & Light Saves $22 Million with Nation's Largest Photovoltaic System

No matter how you look at it, building the biggest solar plant in the country in less than a year – for $22 million less than we budgeted – is a pretty huge deal.

– Kathy Salvador, Manager of Project Development, Florida Power & Light Company

In the "Sunshine State," the choice to go solar seems virtually per-ordained – and SunPower is helping Florida Power & Light fulfill that destiny. The utility completed construction on what was America’s largest solar photovoltaic power plant in DeSoto County, and a second at NASA’s Kennedy Center. SunPower designed and built both facilities, which will produce a total of 35 megawatts of solar energy. With an estimated 360 days of sunlight in Florida annually, FPL's future as a leading producer of clean, renewable energy will be sunny indeed.

20 By 2020

Aiming to trim Florida's greenhouse gas emissions, in 2007 Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced a mandate for all of his state’s utilities to generate at least 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020. Fortunately, for nearly three decades the FPL Group – one of the nation’s largest providers of electricity-related services – had been exploring innovative energy technologies such as wind and solar power. "We're a national leader in renewables," notes Kathy Salvador, manger of project development at Florida Power & Light (FPL), one of the FPL Group’s main subsidiaries. "So going to solar powered-electricity for our 4.4 million customers complements that strategy."

SunPower Is the Obvious Choice

As a state-regulated utility, FPL was required to have appropriate legislation in place to produce solar power. Explains Salvador, “We needed a specific policy that would allow us to recover the costs from our customers.” By 2008 Florida lawmakers approved such legislation, authorizing the production of 110 megawatts of solar power statewide. In anticipation of the bill’s passage FPL began evaluating solar providers, sending out a Request for Information to approximately 50 vendors, and then asking for bids from a short list of finalists. “Given the efficiency and cost of SunPower® solar panels, their experience with utility-scale projects, and the fact that they could commit to delivering within our time-frame, SunPower was the obvious choice,” Salvador says.

Benefits Now and for the Future

SunPower constructed two ground-mounted solar installations for FPL. The first, a 180-acre, 25MW facility now called the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, was completed in record time, with a price tag that earned FPL's acclaim. "It took less than a year, we finished ahead of schedule, and we came in $22 million under budget," Salvador reports (the second, 10MW facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, also was online before its targeted completion date). DeSoto County’s economy received a significant boost from the project, Salvador adds. "We created 400 construction jobs,and our county – which is a poor one – will receive millions of dollars in taxes, which will help strengthen our infrastructure." In early 2010, legislation was being proposed to expand Florida's solar power production to 700 megawatts over the next three years. "When that passes," Salvador predicts, "we'll be ready."

Project Overview

Location:    DeSoto County, Florida
Completed:    October 2009
Installation Type:    Ground-mount system
System Size:    25 MW
PV Surface Area:    180 acres
Number of Panels:    90,000
Products:    SunPower® T0 Tracker


Location:    Kennedy Space Center, Brevard County, Florida
Completed:    April 2010
Installation Type:    Ground-mount system
System Size:    10 MW
PV Surface Area:    60 acres
Number of Panels:    35,000
Products:    SunPower® T0 Tracker

  • DeSoto plant was built in less than a year, nearly $22 million under budget
  • Construction process created hundreds of jobs, sourced to local residents
  • Utility customers enthusiastically approved, funded solar projects
  • Plant will power more than 3,000 homes (20 percent of the county’s population)
  • Use of solar energy will decrease fossil fuel use by an equivalent of more than 275,000 barrels of oil
  • Solar-powered electricity will avoid the release of more than 575,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions