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Natural Awakenings

Solar Boost: Sunshine State Breaks Ground on Big Solar Plant

Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility, has launched  construction of what it says will be the first utility-scale solar investment in the state. With a generating capacity of 75 megawatts, the solar-thermal station, matched with an existing combined-cycle natural gas plant for cloudy day service, will be the second-largest of its kind in the country when fully activated in 2010. It will put out enough power to serve 11,000 homes, while preventing 2.75 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the equivalent of keeping 18,700 cars off the road each year.

Located in Martin County, the new plant will operate via 180,000 mirrors, spread over 500 acres. FPL already operates the 310-megawatt Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert, the largest solar thermal plant in the world.

Projects like this will “not only do good things for the environment, but drive costs of renewable power down,” says Lew Hay, chairman and chief executive of the FPL Group. He acknowledges the higher cost of solar energy over fossil fuels. “But you can’t just look at the cents per kilowatt today,” he adds, “because there’s a cost for fossil fuels that’s not being reflected.”

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