Earlier this week, the Florida Power & Light company (FPL) received approval from the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to begin construction of three solar energy centers that will make Florida the second largest supplier of utility-generated solar power in the nation.

Earlier this year, the governor signed into law a comprehensive energy bill which provided for the development of renewable energy, subject to PSC approval. At that time, FPL presented a proposal to the PSC for three solar energy centers that includes the world's largest photovoltaic solar array and the first "hybrid" energy center that will couple solar thermal technology with an existing natural gas combined-cycle generation unit.

DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center

Planned for construction on FPL-owned property in DeSoto County, Fla., the DeSoto project will provide 25 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity, making it the world's largest photovoltaic solar facility. DeSoto is expected to be in service by December 2009.

Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center

Planned for construction at FPL's existing Martin Plant site, the Martin project will provide up to 75 megawatts of solar thermal capacity in an innovative "hybrid" design that will connect to an existing combined-cycle power plant. It is the world's first project to integrate solar thermal steam generation into a combined-cycle steam turbine. When the power of the sun is being harnessed to produce electricity from steam, less natural gas is required. The Martin facility is expected to be on-line at the end of 2009 and completed by 2010.

Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center

Planned for construction at the Kennedy Space Center, the Space Coast project will provide 10 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity in an innovative public-private partnership. Space Coast Solar will be operating by the first quarter of 2010.

These facilities will prevent the release of nearly 3.5 million tons of greenhouses gases over the life of the projects, FPL said in a press release. This is the equivalent of removing 25,000 cars from the road per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, photovoltaic solar systems, which convert sunlight directly to electricity, consume no fuel, use no water, and produce no waste. FPL's unique solar thermal design, which uses the power of the sun to produce electricity from steam, uses no fossil fuel, no additional cooling water and produces zero greenhouse gas emissions.