Community Solar Comes to the Sunshine State in a Big Way, Finally

Florida Power & Light’s 1.5-gigawatt community solar program could open a new chapter for the state. But is it too complicated to take off?

The largest planned community solar program in the country, created by utility Florida Power & Light, cleared a hurdle this month when the utility reached a settlement agreement with groups that had raised concerns about its structure.

Solar accessibility advocates and retail giant Walmart now stand behind the 1.5-gigawatt program, after initially expressing concerns about access for low-income customers, overall costs and the distribution of the program’s financial benefits.

The program, called SolarTogether, still requires final approval from state regulators, but Florida Power & Light told Greentech Media it is planning to launch the program in the first quarter of 2020.

Among community solar programs as they’ve been defined, FP&L’s design is a bit novel. Under the current structure, 75 percent of the program’s capacity will go to commercial and industrial or governmental customers, with the remaining 372.5 megawatts left for residential and small businesses. FP&L also designed an escalating bill credit, meaning it will take several years for the subscription benefits to outweigh the cost of subscribing to the program.

SolarTogether is another big step on Florida’s path to becoming a national leader in solar energy.

“It really does put Florida on a trajectory to be a national leader that we have felt for a long time has been needed, given, you know, [that it’s] the Sunshine State,” said Stephen Smith, executive director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Florida needs to diversify its energy mix.”

The “backbone” of FP&L’s solar ambitions

Smith calls SolarTogether “the backbone” of FP&L’s efforts to drastically increase solar deployment. The utility, owned by NextEra Energy, in January set out a goal to install 30 million solar panels by 2030, which equates to about 10 gigawatts. Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables ranked FP&L behind only First Solar in terms of annual capacity additions in 2019.

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