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Florida Public Light (FPL) & Solar - Part Deux

About 18 months I wrote a short note - Florida Utility announces plans for 10+ GW of solar!  In that note I said:

Great news coming out of Florida as FPL announces plans to install 10+ GW of solar by 2030 - or almost 1GW per year.  As a reference point - the whole state of FL had 1.2GW of utility-scale solar as of Oct 2018.

A recent announcement from FPL shows how things have progressed over the last year and half and where things are headed.

FPL expands solar leadership as construction begins at six more solar energy centers

The six new solar energy centers, which are on track to go into operation by the end of this year, will support FPL SolarTogetherSM – the company’s highly popular community solar program and the largest of its kind in the U.S. 

FPL has already brought 10 new solar energy centers online this year, and its sister company Gulf Power has commissioned one new solar plant. These solar projects combined with the six 74.5 MW-solar plants being constructed will result in more than 5.6 million panels or approximately 1,275 MW of new solar capacity added in 2020

Florida’s largest generator of solar power, FPL has approximately 1,975 megawatts of universal solar capacity.

FPL will have completed 17 - 75MW solar plants in 2020.  It's basically assembly line construction. FPL will easily meet their goal of 10GW of solar capacity by 2030.

In my previous note(Jan 2019) I also showed how coal generation had continued to decline thru 2018 in FL. Here is an update to the chart using more recent data. Coal generation will essentially be gone in Florida within a few years. Note: I have estimated 2020 coal generation based on data thru May.

Joe Deely's picture

Thank Joe for the Post!

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 1, 2020 11:18 pm GMT

Below, a more representative chart of Florida electricity generation.

The blue line sneaking along its x-axis is not a mistake in EIA's graphing software. It shows solar generation in relation to other sources of electricity, and puts in graphic terms its uselessness as a reliable source of clean energy:

  • The enthusiastic hyperbole above notwithstanding, solar has yet to provide 2% of electricity in the "Sunshine State".
  • 2014 was the first year solar generated any appreciable electricity at all. Since then, fossil fuel methane consumption, just for the purpose of generating electricity, has increased by a factor of 10.
  • Solar electricity will be unavailable for days, or weeks, following tomorrow's landfall of Hurricane Isaias. Fortunately two nuclear plants, Turkey Point and St. Lucie, will be providing a steady 3.4 billion watts of clean electricity to help Floridians repair damage from the storm.
  • Is solar displacing coal, or gas? Hard to tell, but the answer is probably neither. Like graphs of other states' electricity generation, it shows gas is a mirror reflection of coal, the former replacing the latter, and solar is only notable for its ineffectiveness at displacing either.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Aug 3, 2020 9:24 pm GMT

Bob, 

I'm curious - why didn't you include Nuclear generation in your chart. As you can see below - with the rapid decline in coal - nuclear moved into second place in 2019.  FL had 29TWh of nuclear generation in 2019 vs only 21 TWh for coal. Solar had 4.6TWh.

 

Also, you said:

 It shows solar generation in relation to other sources of electricity, and puts in graphic terms its uselessness as a reliable source of clean energy:

This comment shows you are looking backwards and again you are missing where the puck is going.

Some questions for you...

  - what year does solar generation pass coal?

  - what year does solar generation pass nuclear?

  - once solar passes nuclear in Florida - does that mean that you will change your quote to say that nuclear "is useless as a reliable source of clean energy"?

 

Let me give you some clues to help solve this algebra problem,

 - Solar generation is up 56% YTD

 - Coal generation is down 38% YTD

 - Nuclear generation is up 2.5% YTD.

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 4, 2020 3:46 pm GMT

Algebra? There's no "algebra" involved in showing
why percent increases aren't valid for comparison purposes. It's simple arithmetic - fractions and percentages. Math kids learn in elementary school.

An example may help:

  1. For a school science project you plant two seeds next to each other in your garden, a kernel of corn and a tomato seed.
  2. After three weeks the corn plant is 18 inches tall; the tomato plant is only 1-1/2 inches tall.
  3. After the fourth week the corn plant has only grown 10% taller, but in a burst of growth the tomato plant is a full 100% taller!
  4. During week #4, which plant gained more height compared to the other?

Though fast-talking con men often successfully exploit these misunderstandings in sales, scientists recognize them a mile away.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Aug 4, 2020 7:03 pm GMT

Actually Bob - you use them as coefficients...

A problem with your analogy ... If corn is supposed to be Nuclear... then the corn is not growing at all. It's stuck at 18 inches. In fact, in many locations its shrinking. The coefficient for nuclear <=1.

Also as a follow-up to your earlier comments:

The enthusiastic hyperbole above notwithstanding, solar has yet to provide 2% of electricity in the "Sunshine State".

Solar electricity will be unavailable for days, or weeks, following tomorrow's landfall of Hurricane Isaias. Fortunately two nuclear plants, Turkey Point and St. Lucie, will be providing a steady 3.4 billion watts of clean electricity to help Floridians repair damage from the storm.

Here is Florida data from yesterday - 

Solar was 3% of generation. Equivalent to 27% of coal and 23% of nuclear. 

Looking forward to your arithmetic calculations. 

Here are my answers:

    Solar generation in FL passes coal generation - 2022.

    Solar generation in FL passes nuclear generation - 2025.

 

 

 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 3, 2020 11:53 am GMT

I had heard some opining that one of the real motivators behind Florida utilities really starting to invest in solar was the headway that had been made by advocates to deregulate the FL utility market, with one of the main reasons people were asking for that was to be able to find for themselves in the market more green options that their legacy utilities hadn't been providing them. Now that that measure seems to have been defeated (for now), I wonder if FPL and other state utilities will take their foot off the gas a bit since the pressure is gone? Or do you think this is more of a non-reversible shift in priorities and we'll continue to see the pace of adoption accelerate? 

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Aug 3, 2020 4:18 pm GMT

Matt,

I think FPL and other utilities in FL are going with solar becasue it is cheaper. It also is a good hedge againist possible rising NG prices. 

Here is quote from their CEO in the press release I referenced:

“As our state navigates through uncertain times, FPL remains focused on finding new, innovative ways to deliver an even cleaner, more sustainable energy future that will help keep bills low for our customers,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “Make no mistake, we are committed to growing solar and making Florida a leader in clean solar energy. In fact, we remain on track to install 30 million solar panels by 2030 and I’ll be disappointed if we don’t install more. It’s what our customers expect us to do and it’s simply the right thing for our state to ensure that our children and grandchildren benefit from a clean and affordable energy future for generations to come.” 

By the way - in addition the 6 new solar plants that FPL mentioned above they also have another 6 plants already lined up to complete by April 2021.

Six 75MW plants every six months - cookie cutter.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 3, 2020 4:20 pm GMT

Definitely uplifting to see-- hopefully my FL utility (OUC) starts investing to this degree as well

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