County green-lights solar panel farm at old Minute Maid Grove

The solar energy farm FPL plans to build on the old Minute Maid Grove is so isolated that the St. Lucie County commissioners waived landscaping and screening requirements for the project.

FPL’s Pelican Energy Center will also be allowed to cover 30 percent of the 289-acre development site, triple the maximum coverage ordinarily permitted by county zoning rules, the commissioners determined.

The commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 13 to approve the master plan and conditional use permits for FPL to construct and operate its third 74.5 MW photovoltaic solar center in the county.

The 300,000 solar panels to be erected on the site would generate enough energy to power 15,000 houses. The panels stand 2 feet above the ground and are 6 feet tall.

A landscaping buffer could cast shade on solar panels, said Jodi Nentwick, a senior county planner. And the grove at 6201 Minute Maid Road is in a remote location, far from any residential development.

“It is in the middle of nowhere,” said Scott Skole, a senior project manager told the commissioners. “Access to the site is via private right-of-ways. The nearest house is a mile and a half (away).”

FPL anticipates starting construction in the fall and finishing by the end of 2020, Skole said. Transmission lines will be extended to FPL’s Indian River County Energy Center. FPL expects to eventually develop energy generation facilities on the rest of the 955-acre Minute Maid Grove, Skole said.

FPL completed two other 74.5 MW photovoltaic solar centers in St. Lucie County in the past two years. It’s part of a statewide program to make FPL a national solar power leader.

In January, FPL opened the Interstate Solar Energy Center, which can be seen along Interstate 95, north of Orange Avenue.

The Loggerhead Solar Energy Center opened in March 2018 west of the McCarty Ranch on Rangeline Road near the Martin County line.

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