Business Florida 2020 - The Regions
Positioned for Success
DeSoto • Glades • Hardee • Hendry • Highlands • Okeechobee
Seeking wide open spaces and ready proximity to suppliers and key customers? South Central has both. Three interstate highways, four U.S. highways and the Okeechobee Waterway, a system of navigable rivers and canals linking Florida’s east and west coasts through Lake Okeechobee, put 86% of the state’s entire population within a 150-mile radius. Here, in Florida’s heartland, citrus growers and cattle ranchers thrive alongside manufacturing facilities and renewable energy plants. And those who choose to put down roots here get the best of all worlds: the daily joys of small-town life with ocean beaches and big city lights just a short drive away.
Thanks to an abundance of two important commodities — available land and sunshine — Florida’s South Central region offers the ideal environment for solar power generation. In 2009, Florida Power & Light chose to site the state’s first solar power plant — DeSoto Solar Energy Center — in this region. And with the addition of FPL’s Citrus Solar Energy Center in 2016 and its Wildflower Solar Energy Center in 2018, DeSoto became Florida’s “solar capital,” generating more solar power than any other county in the state.
A fourth FPL facility — Hammock Solar Energy Center — opened in Hendry County in 2018, further solidifying South Central’s statewide preeminence in renewable energy. With 74.5 megawatts of solar capacity each, the Citrus, Wildflower and Hammock plants collectively generate enough electricity to power approximately 45,000 homes. And the drive to improve and enlarge South Central’s solar power footprint didn’t end there.
In early 2018, FPL unveiled a solar-plus-storage system at the Citrus Solar Energy Center that is believed to be the first in the U.S. to fully integrate battery technology with a major solar power plant in an effort to increase overall energy output. For the Citrus plant, this has meant a potential increase of more than 500,000 kilowatt-hours delivered to the electric grid per year. In addition to immediate energy delivery, the system provides increased capacity to store energy for dispatch to the grid at a later time.
In January 2019, FPL launched its “30-by-30” plan, committing to the installation of 30 million more solar panels across Florida by 2030. Six months later, FPL began construction on 10 new solar power plants, three of which are located in South Central. Blue Heron Solar Energy Center in Hendry County, Cattle Ranch Solar Energy in DeSoto County and Okeechobee Solar Energy Center in Okeechobee County are expected to begin powering customers in early 2020.
Meanwhile, in keeping with its goal of 14 universal solar power plants in operation across the state by 2023, Duke Energy Florida has begun construction on its Lake Placid Solar Power Plant. The 45-megawatt plant on 380 acres in Highlands County is slated to begin operations in December 2019.
KEY PLAYERS: Florida Power & Light, Juno Beach; Duke Energy Florida, St. Petersburg