TALLAHASSEE (NSF) - Florida's largest electricity provider is bumping up its solar plans.
A little more than a month after saying it intended to double its solar-energy production in the coming year, Florida Power & Light announced Monday it plans to put up an additional 1,500 megawatts of solar over the next seven years.
By adding nearly 300 megawatts a year through 2023, including previously announced plans, the company anticipates it will have nearly 2,100 megawatts of solar in service, enough to power more than 420,000 homes.
Leading solar proponents have praised past announcements but added that electric utilities in Florida should do more.
FPL's solar-energy forecast was filed Monday with the Florida Public Service Commission as part of the company's 2017-2026 Ten Year Site Plan.
The company also plans to replace --- by the summer of 2022 --- a Dania Beach plant that was built in the 1920s with a natural-gas plant the company projects will save customers "hundreds of millions of dollars over its operational life."
The changes, along with the planned retirement of the 1,252-megawatt coal-fired St. Johns River Power Park by the end of the year, are expected to make solar the company's third largest source of energy, surpassing coal and oil, but still well behind natural gas and nuclear, by the third quarter of 2020.
The company anticipates solar will account for about 4 percent of its energy in 2023.
"Our strategy of making smart, long-term investments in clean energy infrastructure is working, and we're looking forward to keeping the momentum going with the major advancements announced today --- which, combined, are expected to save customers more than half a billion dollars," FPL president and CEO Eric Silagy said in a prepared statement.
In February, FPL outlined plans to build eight 74.5 megawatt solar plants by early 2018, an increase from four that had been previously announced.
Those eight plants --- in Putnam, Alachua, Indian River, DeSoto, Brevard, Hendry and St. Lucie counties --- are expected to bring the company to nearly 600 megawatts of solar power, enough for about 120,000 homes at peak production.
Each plant costs roughly $130 million to build.
Theoretically the plan announced Monday could result in up to 20 additional 74.5-megawatt plants, although the company hasn't announced future locations.
By building plants under 75 megawatts, FPL doesn't have to competitively bid each project as required by the state Power Plant Siting Act.
A company news release noted that an undeveloped, company-owned property in western Miami-Dade County may be used.