Florida Power & Light is moving forward with the second 330,000 solar panels it promised to install north of Babcock Ranch.
The new site will be next to the existing 330,000 solar panels that already power Babcock Ranch as well as other FPL customers with 74.5 megawatts. Land for the first phase was basically free with a 2015 donation from Kitson and Partners to FPL. This time around, the cost went up.
FPL paid $4,374,800 to Babcock Property Holdings LLC at the end of 2017 for the 429-acre site. Both the existing and the new site are in Tuckers Grade east of State Road 31, north of the town of Babcock Ranch and adjacent to Babcock Ranch Preserve.
On Jan. 31, FPL submitted its application and site plan to Charlotte County Community Development Department. County staff will review the application. It does not need to go before the county’s Planning and Zoning Advisory Board or the commission, said county Planning Official Shaun Cullinan.
FPL spokesperson Stephen Heiman said the new development is part of the utility’s plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030.
“It would just continue on our plan to bring more and cheaper fuel to our customers,” Heiman said.
Babcock President Syd Kitson said he is pleased to see the progress on solar power on Babcock land.
“I think the timing is fantastic for us at Babcock Ranch,” he said. “It furthers the story of renewable energy.”
FPL is the state’s largest utility. In recent years, its efforts brought the state from the back of the pack nationally in solar, to near the front of the pack, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Planning for Babcock Ranch as a large residential scale development began in 2006, with Kitson stating the new community would be solar powered. When FPL President Eric Silagy said at the time that solar was not cost effective, Kitson gave the first 442 acres to FPL.
Now, Heiman said, solar has become cost effective.
“In recent years, there has been significant decline in the cost, that has allowed us to build in a way that is economical for everybody,” Heiman said.
Costs are still high for battery storage of solar, however, Heiman said.
FPL installed 10 megawatts of battery storage at Babcock last year as part of its experiment with using battery along with solar. Currently, the battery can only hold about four hours of power from the solar array, but it serves other purposes throughout the state, such as providing quick startup energy.
Babcock will continue as the first recipient of power coming out of the Babcock array, based on the deal struck by Kitson.
Statewide, FPL plans to ramp up solar to be 20 percent of its fuel mix by 2030, up from 2.3 percent at present, Heiman said.
The last eight solar installations are expected to save FPL customers $100 million over the 30-year lifetime of the equipment, Heiman said.