Our forecast: Sunny with a 100% chance of solar innovations

Testing floating solar panels near our Big Bend power station

Solar energy is clean energy. And where better to test new ideas than the Sunshine State? That’s why our research and development teams are busy testing solar energy solutions – carefully recording data, analyzing the benefits, and seeking community partners. We hope these forward-thinking innovations will play a part in achieving our vision of a net-zero carbon future.   

It Floats! 

In 2021 we began to install our first solar arrays atop water, in a retention pond near our Big Bend power station in Apollo Beach. There 3,452 solar panels, clipped to floats and anchored at the shoreline, go sunbathing.  

There are two types of floating panels being tested. One type soaks up the sun from just one side, and is what’s used for most of our land-based solar arrays. The other type is a double-sided panel that can harness the sun’s rays from both sides.  

When the aquatic site is complete, we’ll be able to collect data to learn how much energy is being produced, how effective it is compared to other solar sites, how the “standard” solar works in comparison to the double-sided solar, and determine if the water-based panels stay cooler and thereby more efficient.  

Armed with the data and research, we hope to partner with water treatment facilities or other entities that may have otherwise unusable bodies of water.   

The floating solar array should generate 1 megawatt of electricity, or enough to power nearly 200 homes.  

Planting Ideas 

Our vision for our agrivoltaics program

Not far from our floating solar site, another innovative idea is taking root – our first venture into what’s known as agrivoltaics. Simply put, agrivoltaics means the dual operation of solar panels and agriculture on the same piece of land.  

After meeting with local farmers to understand their needs, we’re installing 2,688 double-sided panels with enough room to grow and harvest crops between (or under) the rows of solar panels. Once complete, we hope to partner with farmers to test our site, and eventually expand into partnerships with large farming operations.  

In addition, we’ll be able to compare how the double-sided panels perform on land and on water.  

A Sunshiny Sidenote: The floating and farming solar data is transmitted to and analyzed by engineers at our interactive Clean Energy Center in Apollo Beach, which is open to the public and part of the Florida Conservation and Technology Center. At the Clean Energy Center kids can play interactive games and see another solar experiment, a giant “flower” that actively tracks the sun for maximum rays all day.