Solar panels atop the Orlando Science Center. Photo by Jeff Krause.
Solar becoming cost competitive in sunny Florida and Hawaii, and AEE members making deals worth millions. Just another week’s work for advanced energy.
In Orlando, the municipal utility announced a deal to buy solar-generated electricity for less than it could get from coal and natural gas facilities. Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) announced a plan to cover 31 acres of bare property with solar panels, rising like a phoenix from the ashes. We mean that literally: one portion of the site is a landfill with ash from OUC’s two coal-fired power plants. The other portion was to be the site of an additional third coal plant.
OUC will pay 7 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity from the new solar power plant. It currently costs OUC 8 cents per kwh for electricity from its fossil fuel sources. According to PowerSuite, Florida’s statewide average in March 2015 was over 10 cents per kwh.
Despite the Sunshine State moniker, Florida has not been big on solar. The state is third in the nation for rooftop solar potential, but only 13th in installed capacity. That might be changing thanks to motivated businesses in the state. Tampa Electric, for instance, is building a 25 MW solar facility on 125 acres in the Tampa Bay area. Check out how more advanced energy companies are changing the Florida economy here.
In another sunny state, Maui Electric Co. filed power purchase agreements that will pave the way for development of two new solar farms. Maui, the second largest island in Hawaii, could soon be home to two major solar projects with a combined capacity of nearly 6 MW. The price of electricity from these solar farms will be just over 11 cents/kWh – much less than the state’s average price. According to PowerSuite, the average price of electricity in Hawaii was over 27 cents, as of March.
Advanced energy undercutting traditional sources may be surprising, but it’s nothing new. Electricity generated by solar and wind was cheaper than fossil fuel-generated electricity in Colorado in 2013, and in Texas in 2014. “We really are at a tipping point where solar is the least-cost option,” Tom Hunton, president and CEO of American Capital Energy, told the Orlando Sentinel. American Capital Energy is the company behind the Orlando solar plant.
Beyond solar, AEE member Opower announced a $50 million deal with an unnamed utility on the company’s Q2 earnings call. This deal follows the company’s $90 million contract announced with Pacific Gas & Electric.
Finally, Constellation (an arm of Chicago-based Exelon Corp.) announced that the company would be investing in 40 MW of AEE member company Bloom Energy’s fuel cells. This follows last year’s deal for 21 MW of Bloom fuel cells.