Solar
Energy Storage

Fla. public power entities to participate in solar, storage research effort

The Florida Municipal Electric Association and several public power utilities in the state will participate in a project that will include detailed solar energy and power system studies and analysis as part of an effort to boost the growth of solar energy in Florida. The project is the result of funding from the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative.

Joining together under the name Florida Alliance for Accelerating Solar and Storage Technology Readiness, FMEA, Nhu Energy and the Florida Energy Office have been awarded a $1.75 million grant through the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to increase the growth of solar energy in Florida by developing new and innovative ways to use it in combination with energy storage and other resources, an April 20 FMEA news release noted.

The SunShot Initiative is a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption.

Also included on the alliance's team to provide research and analysis support are the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Florida's public power and cooperative electric utilities.

With the funding, the alliance will lead a three-year project that includes detailed solar energy and power system studies and analysis, as well as the development of strategies aimed at expanding solar, energy storage and other distributed energy resources in Florida.

"The Florida-focused work is expected to unlock additional value for consumers and reveal new and more efficient ways to make use of solar energy, as well as ways to better store solar energy — a resource that can be intermittent in nature," the news release said.

FMEA noted in the news release that currently all forms of renewable energy, including, but not limited to solar, account for less than 1 percent of Florida's power generation capacity. Through the project, "FMEA member utilities are aiming to increase solar energy capacity and enhance the value it provides to their customers when increasingly integrated with other resources and into system planning and operations," the news release said.

Florida public power utilities to play key role

Florida's public power utilities will play a key role in the project. A utility core team has been formed to participate in the project, which includes the City of Tallahassee electric utility, Gainesville Regional Utilities, JEA (Jacksonville), Lakeland Electric, Orlando Utilities Commission and Florida Municipal Power Agency. These utilities will help guide the project, provide data and could potentially pilot new strategies and ideas that emerge as the project progresses.

FMEA's role in the project will be to offer input and guidance, to coordinate and facilitate communications with and involvement of the larger Florida public power utility community beyond the utility core team, to provide significant assistance in planning and conducting periodic workshops and meetings, and to advise and assist in outreach and education related to the project.

FMEA pointed out that the state's public power communities have already invested significantly in solar power. Examples from FMEA member communities include large scale and community solar farms, to residential and commercial rooftop solar.

"Solar will be an important part of our energy portfolio going forward and we're excited to be a part of a project that will aid in the successful expansion of solar energy in Florida," said Amy Zubaly, FMEA's interim executive director. "And, we're hopeful that what we learn over the course of the next three years can guide other states and communities in their efforts to harness the power of the sun," she added.

"Taking part in this project provides FMEA and Florida's municipal utilities with a unique opportunity to build on an exceptional history of customer service, leadership and innovation that will help shape Florida's energy future," Zubaly said.

FMEA represents the unified interests of 34 public power communities across the state, which provide electricity to more than three million of Florida's residential and business consumers.

Additional details about Tallahassee, Florida-based Nhu Energy are available here.