Solar power in Miami-Dade may come partly from floating solar power plants, as an item calling for a study of developing “float-o-voltaic” systems on artificial county lakes cleared committee by a 5-0 vote Tuesday.
County commissioners will decide June 4 whether to direct Mayor Carlos Giménez’s administration to study the feasibility and by December deliver a report, which would also detail how to streamline permitting and encourage private-sector competition.
“When we dedicate land, which is scarce, to solar farms, it forces the hard choice between growing things on that land versus energy production,” said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, the item’s sponsor. “Floating solar has great potential to repurpose these large artificial lakes that otherwise would have no productive use.”
Floating solar power plants, already in large-scale use in Asia, have grown more popular across the globe since nearly 1,000 pontoon-mounted photovoltaic panels were installed in Oakville, CA, in 2008.
Since then, the floating power plants have surfaced throughout the US, prompting a December report from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showing significant potential for the technology, including the possibility that floating solar plants covering just 27% of stateside water bodies identified as suitable could produce almost 10% of current national power generation.
“We’re expecting it to take off in the United States, especially in areas that are land-constrained and where there’s a major conflict between solar encroaching on farmland,” NREL Lead Energy-Water-Land Analyst Jordan Macknick said in a news release.
Miami-Dade has historically supported policies to improve efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Ms. Levine Cava’s item says, pointing to the county’s December 1993 adoption of a long-term CO2 emission reduction plan and 2008 signing of a national pledge to cut 80% of countywide carbon emissions by 2050.
And there is recent precedent for floating solar here. In March, county commissioners OK’d a nonexclusive 15-year agreement allowing Florida Power & Light to install, operate and maintain solar power equipment on Glide Angle Lake at Miami International Airport.
The deal will yield the county an initial $4,900 monthly rent, which will increase yearly up to 3% based on the consumer price index.
Ms. Levine Cava said at the time that she was “very excited about exploring solar on these water bodies” and noted “hundreds and hundreds of acres of artificial lakes in Miami-Dade where solar could be a tremendous benefit.”
The item, co-prime sponsored by Commissioners Rebeca Sosa and Esteban Bovo Jr., enjoyed broad support across the dais. All but one of the remaining 11 commissioners signed on as a co-sponsor in support.
Commissioner Joe Martinez, the sole holdout then, voted to advance Ms. Levine Cava’s item Tuesday but asked that the report also detail what environmental effects floating solar might have on fish and aquatic plants dependent on sunlight, as well as residential use of the lakes.
“Make sure that’s in there, for the loss of vegetation and all that, as well as the loss of use for recreation,” he said. “I learned how to water ski on a lake.
It’s not only that but the diving, fishing – whatever it might be. Just make sure that’s included… so we can balance it out.”