FPL Tries A New Place To Soak In Solar Power: Floating Panels On A Miami Lake

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Flying into Miami can be a feast for the eyes. From a window seat visitors can catch a glimpse of turquoise waters framed by white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and vibrant green ferns in the Everglades.

Now, some may also see 400 solar panels floating on Blue Lagoon right next to the airport — half an acre of panels gleaming in South Florida’s world-famous sunshine.

Florida Power & Light just launched a solar array. Drivers along a stretch of the Dolphin Expressway will be able to see the installation, which measures about 22,000 square feet and will generate 160 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power more than 20 homes per year.


“What better way to showcase this city, this county and how innovative we are than with this facility behind us,” said Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy after helping about 10 technicians push the installation into the lagoon, accompanied by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “The facility is the first floating solar array in the Southeast.”

The panels are installed side by side on a sturdy plastic floating surface that will be anchored in the middle of the lake. The floating panels are part of FPL’s solar expansion strategy, which aims to boost solar capacity in the grid to 20% by 2030 from 2% currently, with the installation of 30 million solar panels in Florida.

Silagy said the floating panels will also serve to experiment with solar production on water bodies, a technique that is widely used in countries like Japan, where available land is scarce. Japan’s many inland lakes are home to 73 of the world’s 100 largest floating solar plants, according to the World Economic Forum.

Florida also has its challenges in setting up solar power infrastructure: land prices are rising as population growth boosts demand. And surprising as this may sound, solar production is more efficient when the air is cooler.


“Placing panels on water helps with the temperature issue,,” said Matt Valle, FPL’s vice president of development. “But here we need to plan for storms and hurricanes. This solar array had to be built for 150-mile-per-hour winds, and there are 40 anchors securing it. Will it withstand the next big hurricane? Can it weather heavy rain? FPL wants to use the Blue Lagoon solar array to answer these questions.”

If anything, the structure will help FPL market its solar strategy to the general public as 47 million people fly in and out of Miami International Airport every year.

Source: Miami Herald

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