FPL builds solar energy center in SWFL supporting nation’s largest community solar program

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Credit: FPL

FPL has built a big solar center in Southwest Florida aimed at helping support the nation’s largest community solar program.

The company’s goal is to have 30 million panels by 2030 and, with this new center, they’re about 30% of the way there. The facility is offering much more than just clean energy as well, there’s new jobs, tax dollars and one of Florida’s well-known assets, sunshine.

FPL chose DeSoto County as its innovative hub for solar power. DeSoto County Commissioner JC Deriso says he’s grateful for the new facility.

“A lot of our land in Desoto is rural and that’s part of our heritage and we love it but rural land, rural occupations don’t generate a whole lot of money,” Deriso said.

A video from the power company shows the fifth solar facility in the county. This means, DeSoto County now has the most solar energy centers in the State of Florida. It became the birthplace of solar in 2009.

“It’s allowing less expansion to happen in existing plants and it’s supporting the growth of Florida without adding more fossil fuel power plants,” said Deriso.

The facility will create enough energy to power 15,000 homes. So it benefits customers like Danny Via and our environment.

“I think it’s renewable energy I think it’s awesome,” Via said.

It’s also expected to power DeSoto’s economy by providing roughly 200 construction jobs for every facility built. From 2016 to 2018, FPL contributed more than 20 million tax dollars to DeSoto.

“And this county needs that. We need the tax revenue for sure,” said Via.

“Well they fix our roads they help pay for our schools and many other things, support our hospital all the infrastructure that we need,” said Deriso. “Everybody moves here for the environment so we gotta be really careful that we take care of it.”

Solar sites are pretty cost-effective yet, one of the most expensive things FPL saw from that first site built in 2009 was maintenance, like mowing the grass. So, they thought, ‘hey let’s have these sheep do what they do best.’

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