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Florida Power & Light and Audubon Florida launch Solar Sanctuary program to promote pollinators and preserve wildlife habitat at new solar power plant sites
-This new partnership aims to transform thousands of acres of solar-generating property into thriving sanctuaries with dedicated conservation areas
-Florida Wildflower Foundation, Florida Native Plant Society, Wildlife Habitat Council and other groups are working with FPL and Audubon to enhance eight solar sites to help conserve and create habitats benefiting birds, butterflies and other wildlife
JUNO BEACH, Fla., Nov. 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) and Audubon Florida today announced an innovative new partnership to enhance FPL's solar power plant sites with unprecedented environmental stewardship, providing thousands of acres of habitat for native plants, birds and vital pollinators such as bumblebees and butterflies.
Through the "Solar Sanctuary" partnership, FPL and Audubon Florida are working with the Florida Wildflower Foundation, Florida Native Plant Society, Wildlife Habitat Council, local Audubon chapters and others to design and implement site-specific environmental enhancements that will make FPL solar sites bird- and pollinator-friendly havens.
FPL is on track to install more than 2.5 million solar panels at eight new solar power plants across Florida that will be operational by early 2018. The site of each new facility is being designed to allow a significant amount of the land to be planted with native grasses, trees, shrubs and vines. Plants are being chosen to provide food for birds and pollinators. Quality wetlands are being preserved, which also provide habitat for birds.
"Our beautiful state has an abundance of sun and great diversity of native plant and animal species. FPL's solar sites are transforming large sections of land. What is exciting is that each site is being designed to make the best use of areas that can benefit wildlife. We are so happy that FPL is taking the time to consult with Audubon and other organizations to make the best decisions about native plants. These Solar Sanctuaries will have benefits for generations," said Julie Wraithmell, interim executive director of Audubon Florida.
"We are proud to partner with Audubon and other dedicated environmental groups on this wonderful project," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "When Audubon Florida approached us with this idea, we knew it was something our company wanted to be a part of. We are firm believers in the notion that amazing things can happen when non-profits and the private sector work together constructively, and I believe this project will set a great example for others to follow."
The FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center in Putnam County and the FPL Loggerhead Solar Energy Center in St. Lucie County are the first sites with approved plans to become Solar Sanctuaries.
"FPL's Solar Sanctuary site in St. Lucie County will help move us toward more green energy production and less environmental impact while maintaining efficiently priced energy for residents. Serving many social and conservation priorities at once, these projects are supported by the St. Lucie Audubon as an example of forward-thinking priorities in the energy sector," said Eva Ries, president of the St. Lucie Audubon Society.
In addition to the enormous environmental benefits, FPL's eight new solar power plants are expected to produce estimated net lifetime savings of more than $100 million for FPL customers by reducing fossil fuel use.
"We commend FPL for recognizing the value of collaborating with local organizations like ours in customizing the use of native plants for birds and butterflies in diverse landscapes and enhancing the solar fields for a more natural environment," said Donna Halleran, 1st vice president of the Pelican Island Audubon Society in Indian River County, which is home to two of the sites – the FPL Indian River Solar Energy Center and the FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center.
In addition to the four mentioned above, the following sites are also currently under construction and will be included in the Solar Sanctuary program:
Solar Sanctuary Designation
Concrete is not used to secure the panel systems to the ground, and once construction is complete, the facilities require minimal human activity – making them ideal for sharing with birds and pollinators. The goal of the Solar Sanctuary partnership is to leverage this land to further enhance its environmental benefits.
Plans for each Solar Sanctuary designation will vary from location to location based on input from local conservation groups that will advise FPL on locally important birds, native wildlife, other natural resources and specific benefits that may be achieved by using certain types of plants and supplemental habitat aides.
Some enhancements that will be implemented include:
The program will also provide an added benefit to agricultural communities that neighbor many of the solar sites by attracting native pollinators that help farmers grow crops. Additional plans may include building bird perches and bird boxes and creating water recharge opportunities.
This partnership builds on FPL's pilot pollinator program, which was initiated at three solar power plants that were completed in 2016. Approximately 15 acres of pollinator habitat were designated at the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County, FPL Babcock Solar Energy Center in Charlotte County and FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center in Manatee County. Pollinator-friendly wildflowers and other native plants were planted to provide fertile habitat for butterflies, bees and birds.
More information about solar in Florida and FPL's solar investments
From 2016 to 2023, FPL plans to add a total of more than 10 million solar panels across Florida, including approximately 1 million installed at three new plants in 2016 and more than 2.5 million at eight plants currently under construction.
FPL has been studying and operating solar in Florida for more than three decades. In 1984, FPL commissioned its first universal solar installation, a 10-kilowatt PV facility in Miami that helped the company's employees gain experience with the then-emerging technology. Over the years, FPL has continued to test and operate a wide variety of solar technologies.
In 2009, the company built the 25-megawatt FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, which was the largest solar PV power plant ever built in the U.S. at the time. In 2016, FPL became the first company to build solar cost-effectively in Florida, leveraging its purchasing power and sites with key advantages to complete three 74.5-megawatt universal solar power plants that are projected to result in net customer savings over their operational lifetimes.
Today, the company operates more than 335 megawatts of solar generating capacity throughout the state:
For more information, visit www.FPL.com/solar.
Florida Power & Light Company
Editor's Note: B-roll of FPL solar energy centers and photos:
SOURCE Florida Power & Light Company
For further information: Florida Power & Light Company, Media Line: 561-694-4442, @FPL_Newsroom