Florida Power & Light, the Sunshine State’s largest utility, is in the midst of building a staggering 110 MW of solar generating capacity, the largest amount of utility-scale solar capacity ever planned outside the desert Southwest.

The projects, which are valued at a total of more than $600 million, include conventional solar-photovoltaic facilities that will generate 25 MW and 10 MW, plus a 75-MW concentrating solar plant [CSP] in Martin County being built by Lauren Engineers & Constructors Inc.

Solar plant will supplement Florida gas-fired station.
Photo: FPL
Solar plant will supplement Florida gas-fired station.

Utility officials say the CSP project will be the first plant of its kind to integrate solar technology with an existing natural gas-fired combined-cycle plant.

The Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center will consist of about 200,000 parabolic mirrors that will concentrate the sun's energy on tubing filled with a special heat-transfer fluid that will be used to generate steam. The steam will be fed into heat-recovery steam generators at FPL’s Martin County Unit 8, an existing combined-cycle plant located at an adjoining site, and augment that plant's output.

The Martin County CSP "takes advantage of the existing infrastructure at the Martin fossil-fuel plant to make clean, emissions-free solar power more affordable for FPL’s customers," says utility spokeswoman Jackie Anderson. “Essentially, when the sun is shining, we will be able to take our foot off the gas at the Martin facility, significantly reducing emissions and also providing fuel savings for our customers.”

Lauren is one of a few contractors with CSP experience. The firm was the engineering-procurement-construction on Nevada Solar One, a 64-MW CSP that used about 180,000 parabolic mirrors and heat-transfer fluid to generate steam that drives a conventional turbine. Nevada Solar One, unlike the Martin County project, is not tied to an existing combined-cycle plant.