In a move that will let the Sunshine State harness energy from even more of its plentiful rays, the Calhoun County Florida Commission recently authorized the installation of two new solar farms in a 4-to-1 vote. The projects are expected to bring 400 to 500 new jobs to the county, which is nestled in northwest Florida.
The two sites will be built by NextEra Energy-owned Florida Power & Light (FPL) – the state’s largest utility – in partnership with county commissioners, as reported by the Tallahassee Democrat. NextEra Energy is headquartered in Juno Beach, Florida.
“Solar energy centers make great neighbors. The panels will ultimately sit in a field and soak up sun and create clean energy for customers across the sunshine state,” said FPL Project Developer Stephen Heiman. “We provide all of the important information, we meet the county land development codes, and develop projects that not only benefit the local areas in which they’re built, but benefit the sunshine state as a whole.”
The planned facilities include a 780-acre Chipola River Solar Energy Center that will be built near Clarksville and a 688-acre Flowers Creek Solar Energy Center slated for construction around Altha. Construction is set to begin and be completed in the rural areas by 2022.
“At FPL, we’re very selective about where we locate our solar farms,” Heiman said. “When choosing locations to build our solar farms, we typically look for property that is flat and clear as well as close to existing transmission lines.”
Florida Power & Light is “the largest energy company in the United States as measured by retail electricity produced and sold, serving more than 5.1 million customer accounts or an estimated 10 million+ people across the state of Florida.” The company employs around 8,900 employees statewide.
The company made history in October when it shared that it had 14 new solar energy projects underway simultaneously across the state. FPL also confirmed that it was ahead of schedule on its plan to install more than 30 million solar panels by 2030.
In December, FPL announced that it had added another 1.4 million panels with the completion of five new solar energy plants which created more than 1,100 construction jobs that benefited local economies. FPL begins 2021 with 33 functioning solar energy centers statewide.
Florida is one of the nation’s leading states in solar. It currently ranks fourth behind California, Texas, and North Carolina for solar electric capacity installed with more than 5,700 MWs installed through the third quarter of 2020. That’s the equivalent of electricity for over 687,800 homes being supplied by solar. In 2019 Florida ranked second nationwide for the highest number of solar jobs at 12,202, trailing only the state of California.
“It [solar] puts the county in position to be a green energy producer and it makes us open to entice other green developments,” said Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce member Kristy Terry.