DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center
Jim Robo, President and Chief Operating Officer February 26, 2009Download
Thank you, Pam, and good afternoon everyone. And let me extend a special welcome to Commissioner Ronald Neads, who is here with us today. If it weren’t for the leadership and vision of the DeSoto County Board of Commissioners, the project we are celebrating here today would never have become a reality.
As most of you know, when DeSoto County was founded in 1887, it was named for the famed Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto. And it just so happens that Spain today is home to the world’s largest photovoltaic solar power plant, the 60 megawatt Parque Fotovoltaico.
Now, I’m not here to announce that DeSoto County will be the new home of the world’s largest photovoltaic solar site – at least not yet. But I am here to announce what those of you who have seen the site already know – we’ve started construction on a massive 25 megawatt solar array that we hope will make DeSoto County as well known for renewable energy as Hernando DeSoto’s homeland.
When the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center is complete 10 months from now, it will be the largest photovoltaic solar site in the United States.
It will power 3,000 homes, or 20 percent of the population of DeSoto County.
It will decrease FPL’s use of fossil fuels by more than 275,000 barrels of oil.
It will avoid greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 4,500 cars off the road every year.
And last but certainly not least, especially in a struggling economy, it has created 200 construction jobs and will provide DeSoto County with more than $2 million in additional property tax revenue through the end of 2010.
Ladies and gentlemen, the benefits that solar power is bringing to DeSoto County can be duplicated across the entire state of Florida. And with continued leadership from Governor Crist, the state legislature and the Public Service Commission, they will be. Our state could not ask for stronger allies in the quest to build a clean-energy future.
A linchpin of that future will be solar power -- an amazing technology that is finally coming of age. For more than a century, there was no practical way to capture the power of the sun on large scale. Human beings could only use solar energy indirectly, by digging up fossil fuels and burning them to release the sun’s stored energy. Today, for the first time in human history, we are able to capture useful amounts of sun’s power directly, through photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into electricity.
Thanks to technological advances, solar power is becoming more efficient and affordable, allowing us to deploy it on a commercial scale. The high-tech panels you saw out front are a quantum leap from the rooftop panels of even few years ago. Not only do they track the sun’s path across the sky, but they are the first commercial panels that also capture sunlight reflected off of the ground.
These are the kinds of technologies we need to bring to Florida to ensure that the state is a key player in the energy economy of the future. Our vision – and we hope it is one that the state shares – is for the development of a “CleanTech Corridor” in Florida.
The Florida “CleanTech Corridor” will establish the state as a true pioneer and leader in renewable and clean energy. The corridor is as long as the peninsula itself. It encompasses FPL’s solar arrays here in DeSoto and at Rothenbach Park in Sarasota. It stretches south to Turkey Point and north to St. Lucie to include FPL’s emissions-free nuclear facilities, both of which are being upgraded to provide an additional 400 megawatts of clean energy. And it extends to FPL’s two additional solar facilities at our Martin plant and at NASA. As it grows, the “CleanTech Corridor” will add new solar arrays and other renewable energy projects, and perhaps additional nuclear units as well. The end goal: To make Florida a magnet for renewable manufacturers, for research dollars at our universities, and for good-paying jobs in a dynamic growth industry.
Of course, the benefits of solar power to Florida go beyond the economic. A dramatic expansion of solar power will also reduce Florida’s dependence on oil and gas as major sources of electricity generation. This will not only strengthen the state’s energy security, but it will help protect customers from the fuel price shocks that come from relying heavily on fossil fuels. Remember, the price of fuel from the sun is always the same … zero.
Nor should we overlook the vast environmental benefits that solar power provides. Solar power is the cleanest form of energy known to mankind. It emits zero greenhouse gases and other pollutants. It uses no water. It produces no waste. And because it displaces other, higher-polluting forms of energy generation, solar power actually makes the air we breathe cleaner.
For all of these reasons, we need a policy environment in Florida that encourages a dramatic expansion of renewable energy. The governor, state legislature and PSC have shown strong leadership, and we need that leadership to continue. The renewables industry must see bold action and a sustained commitment from Florida to attract investment to the state.
NextEra Energy is proud to be America’s No.1 renewable energy company. In fact, in 2008 alone we installed nearly 1,300 megawatts of wind power – four times more than all the wind and solar power installed in the state of California last year. We are ready to help Florida achieve the vision of a clean-energy future.
The time for action is now. The sooner Florida acts, the faster we can continue the renewables revolution our state so desperately needs to strengthen its economic, energy and environmental security. Who knows? With the right policies in place, perhaps we can expand the DeSoto Solar Energy Center to make it the largest in the world.
Thank you very much.