Florida’s first hybrid solar/gas power plant creates 5,000 total jobs

Florida Power & Light Company celebrated the launch of its first hybrid solar energy plant on Monday.

The plant, in Martin County, Fla., combines 75 megawatts of solar thermal power with a traditional natural gas electricity plant to provide clean energy to 11,000 households per year, according to a press release from the utility. It is also expected to generate an extra $5 million in new local tax revenue, according to the release.

“The positive impact this project has had on our community and will continue to have on Martin County in the coming decades is extraordinary,” Ed Ciampi, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, was quoted at the celebration. “This innovative project showcases Martin County and Florida to the world as a dynamic leader in solar energy, and we couldn’t be more proud.”

The sun-tracking solar panels are located on 500 acres adjacent to the already-existing power plant.

The plant, called the Next Generation Solar Energy Center, came online in November and is the third of Florida Power & Light’s three large-scale solar projects, said spokesman Neil Nissan.

The utility’s two other holdings are a 25-megawatt solar photovoltaic installation in DeSoto, Fla., and a 10-megawatt plant at the Kennedy Space Center.

Together, the three projects produce 110 megawatts of clean solar energy. The projects were made possible when the Florida Legislature approved a cost-recovery program for up to 110 megawatts of solar power in 2008, Nissan said.

All together, the three solar installations represent less than 1 percent of the power that the utility sells to Florida citizens, Nissan said.

“But these are just our first three,” he said. “We’re looking to build more.”

Nissan said Florida Power & Light is hoping the legislature will pass some new measures that will further promote solar development in the state. The utility has more than 500 megawatts of solar projects in the pipeline ready to be submitted for approval as soon as the government passes fresh legislation, Nissan said.

“We understand this is the Sunshine State,” Nissan said. “And we’re trying to create a strong solar industry here.”

Nissan said that in addition to producing clean renewable energy, the solar installations created 1,500 direct jobs for the construction and operation of the solar panels and 3,500 indirect jobs.

Image courtesy of Florida Power & Light.