With ten new solar projects in the works, including two slated to come online early this year, Duke Energy Florida is slated to go before the state Public Service Commission (PSC) today seeking approval of a plan Duke is calling the “Clean Energy Connection Program.” The concept involves certain customers voluntarily paying more on their utility bills in advance to help finance Duke’s aggressive solar expansion plans, in exchange, those customers will receive future utility bill credits.
The plan faces opposition from critics who point out that if any of the projects fail, Duke’s broader customer base could end up footing the bill. The hearing is scheduled to be broadcast on the Florida Channel at 9:30am Tuesday.
As part of the new plan submitted to the Commission, Duke substituted a new solar project to replace the recently rejected Archer Solar Project proposal. The original plan was scuttled after Alachua County officials agreed with the Sierra Club that a large scale solar power plant in the county might contribute to “environmental racism.”
Duke already operates seven solar plants in the state, and their ambitions for 2021 and beyond are aggressive. They need to be, in order for the company to keep pace with their in-state rivals, including Florida Power & Light, which boasted last week that it brought five new solar centers of its own online, bringing FPL’s total to 33 solar plants in the Sunshine State.
And FPL isn’t the only competition in the large scale solar game. Solar generation in Florida is expected to grow by 44% over the next decade according to the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council. The Florida PSC has received plans for the installation of about 7,125 Megawatts of solar capacity, of which 5,551 MW or roughly 78% would be utility-owned solar. As one of the state’s five IOUs, Tampa Energy (TECO) is working toward adding 600 MW of solar by the end of 2021.