JUNO BEACH, Fla. — Florida Power & Light announced last week plans to build four new solar power plants this year, including the Echo River Solar Energy Center in Suwannee County.
The Echo River plant will be capable of generating 74.5 megawatts of power, as are the other three plants in Okeechobee County, Palm Beach County and Manatee County. The nearly 300 megawatts of combined solar power would be enough to power around 60,000 homes.
According to FPL, the new plants will lead to an additional $26 million in savings to customers long term.
Suwannee County’s new solar site will be located on 800 acres just north on Interstate 10, about five miles east of Live Oak and will be bordered by Hogan Road to the north and east.
The solar farm will be visible to the thousands of drivers that travel the interstate daily and construction is expected to begin in the next month.
“FPL’s solar investment is an ideal fit for our community as it supports the growth of clean tech and ecotourism — two industry sectors that provide for a diversified and sustainable regional economy,” Suwannee County Economic Development Director Jimmy Norris said in a release. “And its location will help us advertise that Suwannee County is playing a role in Florida’s transition from the Sunshine State to the Solar State.”
Echo River and the other three facilities are expected to be put into operation early in 2020.
“The construction of four additional solar energy centers is just the latest demonstration of our laser focus on advancing solar energy for all of our customers, while keeping their bills lower than 90 percent of the county,” FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said in the release. “These solar plants are part of our commitment to installing 30 million more solar panels by 2030 across more than 100 new solar sites, resulting in the creation of thousands of jobs here in our state.”
In addition to providing clean energy, the solar facility will also be designed to limit the environmental impact on Rocky Creek — which runs through the property — and other wetlands in the area.
The Echo River facility will also feature a tracker system in which the 300,000 solar panels follow the path of the sun throughout the day to increase the amount of energy produced.
FPL currently operates 18 solar power plants including the Sunshine Gateway Solar Energy Center, which recently opened in Columbia County. Total, FPL has around 1,250 MW of solar capacity.
Duke Energy opened its Suwannee Solar Facility in December 2017, which can produce 8.8 MW of power. Duke also announced the opening of its 74.9 MW Hamilton Solar Power Plant in Jasper in January.