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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Even if it already feels like summer, summer solstice is almost here.
This Friday is the official kickoff to summer.
It’s also the longest day of the year of sunlight and that’s especially important for solar energy.
“We have the possibility to generate even more solar during the summer solstice,” said Stephen Heiman, a spokesperson for Florida Power & Light.
The solar spectacle is another reason why FPL believes power through sunshine is the future.
FPL has launched a major plan to install 30 million solar panels in the state by 2030. Laid end-to-end, those 30 million solar panels would wrap around the Earth one and a half times.
“It’s some of the cleanest energy in the country,” said Heiman.
FPL and its sister company, NextEra Energy Resources, are already the world's largest producer of renewable energy from the wind and sun. When this project is completed, FPL expects to be the largest utility owner and operator of solar in America.
“Solar energy is very important to keeping a clean environment,” he said. “We’re 30 percent cleaner than the national average with bills 30 percent lower than the national average.”
Each one of the solar plants is avoiding emissions the equivalent of 12,000 cars off the road each year.
Ten new solar sites are also under construction right now across Florida, including one in Palm Beach County in the city of Westlake:
* FPL Babcock Preserve Solar Energy Center, Charlotte County
* FPL Blue Heron Solar Energy Center, Hendry County
* FPL Cattle Ranch Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County
* FPL Echo River Solar Energy Center, Suwannee County
* FPL Hibiscus Solar Energy Center, Palm Beach County
* FPL Northern Preserve Solar Energy Center, Baker County
* FPL Okeechobee Solar Energy Center, Okeechobee County
* FPL Southfork Solar Energy Center, Manatee County
* FPL Sweetbay Solar Energy Center, Martin County
* FPL Twin Lakes Solar Energy Center, Putnam County
“We have them spread out throughout the entire state of Florida as part of a strategy to ensure that we get the most solar, whenever possible,” said Heiman. “We plan to add 745 megawatts in addition to the already 1,200 plus megawatts in operation today by early 2020.”
Currently, the company operates approximately 1,250 megawatts of solar capacity across 18 existing solar plants and other smaller installations.
Each of the new solar plants will have a capacity of 74.5 megawatts. When the new solar power plants begin serving customers early next year, FPL's total solar capacity will reach nearly 2,000 megawatts – enough to power approximately 400,000 homes.
Additionally, every solar plant — even thee solar trees in downtown West Palm Beach — are tapped into the grid to provide power for the state.
“This time of year we see a lot of afternoons filled with clouds and rain so having these solar panels around the state allows us to generate solar energy,” said Heiman.
The solar trees in West Palm Beach are helping to draw attention to the idea of solar energy, especially with the Palm Beach County convention center, Kravis Center, and Howard Park nearby.
“You see there’s plugs on them so you can charge your phone or laptop powered by the sun,” said Heiman.
Heiman said they are looking forward to the longest day Friday, as they continue to push forward toward cleaner energy.
“We’re going to make Florida the world leader in solar generation,” he said.
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