Largest Planned Community Solar Program Could Be Coming to FL

The largest community solar program in the country - 1.5-gigawatts - is in the works for Florida thanks to Florida Power & Light. But is it feasible?


A 1.5-gigawatt community got through an obstacle recently when reached a settlement agreement with organizations that had brought up previous concerns regarding its structure.  

Walmart now stands behind the program along with solar accessibility advocates, even though there were initial concerns about low-income customers and access to said program.  

: An Inventive Program 

SolarTogether is the name of this community solar program. It still needs approval from state regulators but in accordance with Power & Light, the plan is to launch the program early next year.  

Florida Power & Light has created an innovative design in which 75 percent of the program’s capacity would be for governmental or commercial customers. The just over 372 megawatts left over would be for small businesses and residential customers.  

An escalating bill credit has been designed, too. Here is what this means to some: it is going to take years for the cost of subscribing to this program to be outweighed by its benefits. But we will get back to this point…  

Is SolarTogether the step needed for Florida to become a national solar leader? According to executive director at the Southern Alliance for Clean EnergyStephen Smith, it is.  

Smith referred to SolarTogether as a major effort to increase solar deployment. NextEra Energy owns the utility, which set a goal in January to install 30 million solar panels over the next decade.  

When it comes to annual capacity additions for this year, FP&L is ranked just behind First Solar, as per Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.  

New power plants would result from this community solar program. There would be 20 power plants at 74.5 megawatts apiece. Customers would have the option of subscribing in increments of 1-kilowatt. They would pay $6.76 per kilowatt as a subscription charge, and they would earn a credit beginning at 3.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. Unlike other subscriptions, this one could be moved to a new household, canceled or adjusted without a fee.  

Solar Perks: How Low-Income Customers Benefit 

37.5 megawatts have been set aside for low-income customers after push from groups such as Vote Solar. This seems to be a good move as wider access is needed in Florida and when it comes to community solar, it needs to be accessible to those who do not already have it. Moreover, unlike general subscribers needing to wait years to see economic benefits, the credit low-income subscribers will receive is going to outweigh the monthly charge from the get-go.  

And what about non-subscribers? The community solar program will benefit them, too. The expectation is that there will be $249 million in cost savings, some of which will go to customers.  

One challenge is that FP&L needs to make sure the solar program’s size can be met with comparable demand.  

It is estimated that the utility could serve roughly 74,500 customers if residential subscribers sign up for all of their average yearly usages. At this point in time, 100,000 small businesses and residential customers have signed up for updates on the solar program, so there certainly is interest.  

A Potential Setback 

Unfortunately, the solar program has a complex credit mechanism, as previously touched upon, and this is an issue for community solar overall. Its approval could be hindered because of this. Community solar can be complicated no matter how simple the design might be. When savings get complicated because of a dodgy subscription credit and things begin to get confusing, customer attainment becomes difficult. It is important that customers have a good experience when it comes to solar programs and FP&L’s community solar program just might need some work. 

Legislation has yet to be passed in Florida allowing an economical community solar market. Third-party developers realize that utilities primarily develop solar projects on their own. This does not mean things can’t change.  

Continue to follow solar news to stay in the know when it comes to solar demand and utilities such as FP&L. Customers are, in fact, demanding solar and this is a good step in the right direction. 





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