JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) – Florida Power & Light is at the forefront of renewable energy in the Panhandle.
Three of their solar farms are based right here in the Florida Panhandle. Their first solar farm, The Blue Indigo site debuted in April of 2020 outside of Cottondale.
To see how the 700-acre solar plot has impacted the surrounding community, both human and natural.
after two years of generating solar energy, FPL representative Kimberly Blair said it’s been a perfect fit.
“Our solar energy sites make great rural partners and we make great neighbors with the rural community,” she said. “Number one is that our solar sites are like any other type of harvest except we’re harvesting the sun to make electricity.”
During the last weekend of March, the company recorded what they deemed a perfect solar weekend, meaning solar power accounted for 25% of all electricity generated on March 26 and 27.
Solar energy is the clear winner when it comes to other renewable energy sources. Solar fields are odorless, don’t use water, require very little maintenance, and are cost-effective.
However, one disadvantage of solar sites is that they take up room, so there might be a loss of habitat.
Over the past two years, FPL has done a lot to promote and restore the ecological areas in and around areas of the site that it’s reached a “stewardship status” given to them by Audubon Florida.
This means they have met certain environmental standards, which are helping the habitat for birds pollinators and other wildlife.
Blair said it’s a long process, but it’s worth it.
“The environmental side of the house comes out and they get this property ready for planting,” she said. “They plant aquatic plants, they plant wildflowers… This whole area is just seeded in thousands and thousands of native wildflowers. Those support the pollinators the bumblebees, the butterflies, the honey bees, and these things are all so important to these communities.”
FPL has two other sites in Northwest Florida that opened in December of 2021, which will also work towards a stewardship status in the coming years.
Currently, FPL has another eight solar farms under construction, which is also something that makes them friendly to rural neighborhoods.
Many employees used to construct and manage The Blue Indigo Solar site were outsourced from Jackson County.
Jackson County resident and FPL Engineer Justin Chambers said it has been a blessing to live and work in his hometown of Chipley while being instrumental in bringing renewable energy to the community.
“At this site in particular, I wanna say north of 10 people actually that live less than a mile from here were hired and actually built this project,” he said. “Especially with technology like this, as far as cutting edge you know, this stuff is leading the industry in technology when it comes to renewable generation”
The site has a 30-year life span, and if the community were to decide they didn’t like it, they could have them removed.
Blair added, “The panels are just planted in the ground without any concrete, and all this infrastructure can be removed easily and return this site back to farming, timber, or what’s needed at that certain time.”
FPL officials said that new solar technology is implemented all the time, and within the next 30 years, solar farms are expected to take up less space but remain just as efficient for the region.