FPL proposes voluntary customer solar power pilot

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Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) is proposing a voluntary, community-based, solar power partnership pilot for consideration by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC).

If approved, FPL will install new solar power generating facilities in Florida communities, funded by voluntary contributions from FPL customers who choose to participate in the pilot program. Key to its design, and unlike current solar energy rebate programs, the pilot will not increase electric bills for customers who choose not to participate.

Through this voluntary pilot program, FPL customers will have the opportunity to elect to contribute to advancing solar power in Florida for $9 a month. During the next three years, FPL projects that the program could support the construction of as many as 25 commercial-scale, distributed solar arrays — each roughly 10 to 15 times larger than a typical residential rooftop installation — for an estimated total of up to 2,400 kW (2.4 MW), depending on customer participation.

The pilot program is expected to begin accepting voluntary customer contributions in 2015. FPL plans to provide the initial necessary funding so that the installation of at least the first two to five solar arrays can begin in early 2015, in anticipation of receiving sufficient funding from customers. The arrays will be constructed by local, Florida-based solar installers selected through a competitive bid process.

Among the first communities selected to host the new solar arrays are Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota and West Palm Beach, Fla. FPL is also working with additional communities across the company's 35-county territory to determine sites for potential installations based on a variety of factors, including space availability and local customer interest in the program.

FPL's website also includes information about existing solar pilot programs that were mandated by the PSC during its 2009-2010 demand-side management (DSM) proceedings. From 2011 through 2013, these programs cost FPL customers nearly $30 million, including $16.5 million to provide rebate subsidies for about 900 customers' individual small-scale solar-panel installations — the least economical form of solar photovoltaic (PV) power. FPL's analysis determined that these existing pilots are not cost-effective as they cost all customers more to fund than the benefits they generate.

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