by Jodie Eldridge
While you might know about FPL’s efforts to advance solar power in Florida, you probably haven’t heard how these solar sites are often environmentally enhanced to provide habitats for native wildlife. I’m Jodie Eldridge, and my team is responsible for providing wildlife support for the development, construction and operation of all FPL solar, natural gas and nuclear facilities. I am also a member of the Watt’s Team, and will be periodically sharing information with you about how FPL is working to safely coexist with the flora and fauna across this great state. In this blog, I’m excited to introduce you to FPL’s Solar Stewardship Program, an eco-innovation partnership with Audubon Florida.
FPL is the largest generator of solar energy in Florida, with 28 major solar energy centers in operation and 14 additional solar energy centers under construction. Combined, these solar energy centers are expected to generate enough energy to power nearly 630,000 homes! We’ve also installed eye-catching FPL SolarNow solar trees and solar canopies in more than 70 locations across the state – including museums, zoos, public parks, schools and other educational facilities. These solar arrays help teach the public about how solar energy works by installing working solar technology in the heart of local communities.
Protecting the environment is crucial, but we can’t do it alone. Through a partnership with Audubon Florida, an organization which advocates for the protection of land, water and wildlife, the majority of FPL solar energy centers are or will be solar stewardship sites. This commitment to stewardship begins during development when we consider the presence of any threatened or endangered species, as well as significant wildlife corridors, wetlands and other ecologically important areas in our design. After development, we work with Audubon Florida and other local organizations to design and implement site-specific environmental enhancements, like the planting of native trees, shrubs, and grasses, to make sites bird- and pollinator-friendly. The plants used are strategically chosen to increase biodiversity and limit the growth of invasive species. At some sites where specific species have been documented or are known to forage, we have installed nest boxes for waterfowl and cavity birds, and T-perches for burrowing owls and raptors to improve habitat conditions.
To avoid disrupting the delicate Florida ecosystem, sites within panther habitat are surrounded with panther-friendly fencing. This special fencing is designed so that prey can pass through, and panthers can pass over. At our FPL Hammock Solar Energy Center, we conducted a study with nearly two dozen cameras set along the perimeter fence to ensure that animals were able to pass through successfully and safely. Over the course of a year, more than 2,300 animals were spotted on camera – including deer, rabbits, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes and more.
You can count on us for our commitment to continue to bring you clean, reliable, and affordable energy, and we know that building solar energy centers and expanding innovative energy storage technology allows us to deliver on that promise. That’s why we’re working toward our “30-by-30” goal to install more than 30 million solar panels by 2030. These solar sites allow us to give back and help protect our unique Florida wildlife for generations to come.
For more information about how FPL is working toward sustainability goals and for ways you can save on your energy bill, be sure to check out the Watt’s Happening blog where I and other members of the Watt’s Team will share new information each month!