Miami-Dade County

FPL and FIU join forces on innovative solar research facility

Artist’s conceptual rendering of Florida Power & Light Company solar parking canopies at Florida International University. The rendering depicts solar-powered parking canopies that FPL plans to install in the parking lot of FIU’s Engineering Center in the summer of 2015.
Artist’s conceptual rendering of Florida Power & Light Company solar parking canopies at Florida International University. The rendering depicts solar-powered parking canopies that FPL plans to install in the parking lot of FIU’s Engineering Center in the summer of 2015. Courtesy

Florida Power & Light Company and Florida International University announced a new partnership Thursday to build a commercial-scale distributed solar power facility that will both generate electricity for FPL’s 4.8 million customers and serve as an innovative research operation.

The project involves the installation of more than 5,700 solar panels on 23 canopy-like structures that will be built over the summer in the parking lot of the university’s Engineering Center, just north of FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus in west Miami-Dade. Faculty and students from FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing will use data from the 1.6-megawatt solar array to study the effects of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) generation on the electric grid in real-life South Florida conditions.

“This innovative solar project builds on FIU’s relationship with FPL, one that provides our students with unparalleled and unique training opportunities,” FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said in a statement. “Through this project, our engineering students will make a direct contribution to the growth of solar energy in our state, while gaining invaluable experience working side by side with professionals from one of the most forward-thinking utilities in the nation.”

“FPL is proud to be a leader in advancing solar energy in smart ways, making sure to keep costs low and reliability high for our customers,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “As the economics of solar continue to improve, we look forward to harnessing more and more energy from the sun. Our partnership with FIU is designed to help us manage solar power’s interaction with the greater electric grid as part of our commitment to reliably deliver affordable clean energy for all of our customers.”

The project will provide duo benefits.

When the sun is shining, the approximately 342,000-square-foot solar array will provide electricity for FPL customers via the electric grid. Over the course of a year, the installation is expected to produce the equivalent of the amount of energy used by approximately 34,000 laptop computers. The canopy structures also will provide shade for about 600 parking spaces.

FPL, the state’s largest generator of solar energy, operates three solar power plants, and recently announced plans to cost-effectively triple its solar generation in Florida by the end of 2016.

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