I am a longtime fan of FPL, also known as Florida Power and Light. I am a fan because that company employed my Dad for 35 years, gave me neat Christmas presents each year at the company party, and provides my Mom with a nice pension and dividend income. I also liked being able to visit Dad at work and to learn about how electricity is made at a very young age.
I cannot say that I am much of a fan of the way that the company is spending ratepayer and taxpayer money these days, however. I have just finished reading a rather breathless press release from the company touting a visit from President Obama for the commissioning of the company’s 25 MWe (peak capacity at noon on a clear day) solar power plant in Arcadia, FL. I had to read through eleven paragraphs before finally coming across the figure that I wanted to find:
With support from President Obama’s Recovery Act funding, the $150 million total cost of constructing the facility will represent an average of only 6 cents on a typical customer’s monthly bill over the lifetime of the plant.
Let me translate that – a 25MWe (peak capacity at noon on a clear day) power plant cost $150 million or $6,000 per kilowatt (peak capacity at noon on a clear day). Applying a reasonable solar capacity factor of 25% to that plant, that means that the capital cost of the facility is roughly equivalent to paying $21,600 per kilowatt for a plant that has a capacity factor of 90%, which is a bit less than average for a US nuclear power plant. On the flip side, when you can spread the cost of that facility over 4.5 million customer accounts who each receive approximately enough power from the plant to turn on a nightlight (at noon on a clear day), the plant will only cost them 6 cents per month for the next 25 years. (I wonder if interest and inflation are included in that computation?)
Don’t tell the Chamber of Commerce for the “Sunshine State” that I told you this, but Florida gets a lot of rain and has a reasonably dense cloud cover on some days, so 25% CF for solar might be a bit optimistic. In addition, there is nothing that the new plant owners can do to make the plant produce power at night.
Oh well, I guess the solar plant makes for a friendly backdrop for speeches, even if it does little to nothing to produce useful power for the people who live in South Florida.