How can we slash carbon emissions, build a more resilient grid and continue to keep utility bills well below the national average? And how can we do it faster and at scale?
These are the questions we ask every day at Florida Power and Light. And as we celebrate Earth Day, our company is distinctly aware of the fact that the innovations we conceptualize today will power Florida homes and businesses 10 and 20 years from now.
It makes sense that Florida should be at the forefront of game-changing advances in clean energy. Around 800 new Floridians arrive here daily, a trend accelerated during the pandemic. In fact, according to the Florida Chamber, if Florida were a country, it would have the 17th largest economy in the world. These trends are good for employment and the rest of our state’s economy, but they also require smart infrastructure and planning. We believe FPL’s clean energy initiatives could produce the types of breakthroughs that will help solve our state’s unique energy challenges sustainably and responsibly.
We’re not just talking about solar. We’re talking about groundbreaking batteries that will unlock the full promise of energy from the sun, renewable microgrids to power small cities and a transportation infrastructure that will make driving electric easy and fun. We’re even exploring green hydrogen.
FPL expects to have more than 40 operating solar energy centers by the end of this year, and over 100 by the end of the decade as we close in on our plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030. And while our solar expansion is unprecedented, pairing solar with energy storage takes it to the next level.
Following years of research, FPL is poised to make major breakthroughs in battery technologies. Battery systems at two of our solar centers are already storing solar power and dispatching it to the grid when the sun’s not shining – such as at night or on a cloudy day. While that’s impressive on its own, FPL is also in the midst of constructing the largest integrated solar-powered battery in the world.
We’re also coupling smaller batteries and solar arrays to better understand the benefits of microgrid technology. With the help of our long-time research partners at Florida International University (FIU), a renewable microgrid will help supply uninterrupted power to FIU’s engineering campus during extreme weather events – a leading cause of power outages. Day-to-day, students will analyze data to address the role microgrids can play in local grid stability and reliability, while gaining invaluable experience and contributing to real-world solutions for a more sustainable energy future.
FPL is also helping transform Florida’s transportation landscape. Our state ranks in the top three in the nation for electric vehicle adoption. Continued growth relies heavily on charging infrastructure. So, we’re installing more than 1,000 charging ports at strategic locations, including along Florida’s Turnpike, to make longer trips in your electric car or truck a reality.
What’s next? Using solar energy to extract hydrogen from water could unlock the potential for a 100 percent emissions-free energy future. We plan to explore just that at the FPL Okeechobee Clean Energy Center. While hydrogen-production technologies are still in the early stages, this project could guide the way for use of zero-emissions hydrogen as another fuel source to further lower or eliminate emissions from our system in the future.
As a father of three, I am always reminded of our duty to set the next generation up for success. So, while we celebrate Earth Day 2021, know that FPL is already thinking 10 and 20 years down the road for sustainable energy solutions that will power a cleaner tomorrow.
Matt Valle is the Vice President of Development at FPL and a former nuclear submarine officer in the Navy.