Florida Utilities Continue to Roll Out Plans for Solar After Sidelining Private Industry

Solar is good. It's good for the environment. It's good for you and me. And, apparently, it's good for the state's massive utilities, who have steadily been rolling out large-scale solar projects. These project unveilings come after the utilities spent the past year edging the private solar providers out of business by restricting their input at the Public Service Commission. And now Florida Power and Light has announced plans that would double the state's overall solar production.

The utility announced recently that it hopes to build three large-scale solar sites, in Manatee, DeSoto, and Charlotte counties, according to the Tampa Bay Times. These installations would create 225 megawatts of solar power to the state, which currently produces 229 megawatts of juice from the sun.

FLP, which is the country's third-largest utility, is already in on the solar game. The company right now produces 110 megawatts of solar. So the current proposal would not only nearly triple FPL's own chunk of the solar game but it would drastically expand the state's total. The Sun Sentinel reports the projects come with a price tag of $400 million to $420 million -- money coming from ratepayers, although the company says it won't jack up your power bill. But... come on...

And the utility isn't alone. As we reported earlier this week, Gulf Power is moving forward with a plan to install solar at three military bases dotting the Panhandle -- a total of 120 megawatts of power.

So this is good, right? Solar! Well, yes, it is good that the state's utilities are trying to get into the solar game. But keep in mind, these are all large-scale projects that help million-dollar conglomerates, not mom-and-pop solar businesses -- the very industry that has been sidelined and screwed, thanks to the utilities.

It's also interesting that as part of their roll-out of the proposed project, FLP noted that "solar power -- even the most economical large-scale installation -- is generally not yet cost effective in FPL's service area." A little rhetoric twist of the knife to all those private companies who have been arguing the exact opposite -- arguing hopelessly, it seems. In a smart move, private solar providers have launched a ballot initiative that would let voters choose whether solar generators can sell their juice directly to consumers.

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson