ARCADIA, Florid Greg Bove steps into his pickup truck and drives down a sandy path to where the future of Florida's renewable energy plans begins. There, acres of land are filled with solar panels. They can power thousands of homes and businesses.
For nearly a year, construction workers and engineers in Arcadia, a Florida town of citrus trees and cattle farms, have been building the nation's largest solar panel energy plant. A solar panel energy plant works like this: When light hits the solar panels, the energy is turned into an electric current, which can be harnessed for power. This environmentally friendly form of energy is of interest to President Barack Obama, who visited the Florida facility on October 27, 2009. That's when the plant went online and began directly converting sunlight into energy and producing power for the electric grid. Florida enjoyed a moment in the solar energy spotlight.
The DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center is owned by Florida Power & Light company. At 25 megawatts, it will generate nearly twice as much energy as the second-largest photovoltaic facility in the U.S. And the DeSoto plant is only the beginning.
Demand is growing as more states are requiring that a certain percentage of their energy comes from renewable sources. So the size of the plants is increasing. The southwest Florida facility is big, but larger projects are in the works in Nevada and California.
"We took a chance at it and it worked out," said Bove. He is a construction manager at the project, set on about 180 acres of land 80 miles southeast of Tampa. "There's a lot of backyard projects, there's a lot of rooftop projects, post offices, and stores. Really this is one of the first times where we've taken a technology and upsized it."
Despite its nickname, the Sunshine State hasn't been a leader in solar power. Less than 4 percent of Florida's energy has come from renewable sources in recent years. And unlike many other states, Florida lawmakers haven't set clean energy quotas for electric companies.
California, New Jersey, and Colorado have led the country in installing photovoltaic systems. Now Florida is closer to the top of that list with the nation's largest plant yet. The DeSoto facility and two other solar projects that Florida Power & Light is working on will generate 110 megawatts of power. This is predicted to cut greenhouse gases by more than 3.5 million tons. Combined, that's the same as taking 25,000 cars off the road every year for 30 years, according to figures cited by the company.
The investment isn't cheap. The DeSoto project cost $150 million to build. This is a hefty sum, considering that it supplies power to only about 3,000 of the state's homes and businesses.
Still, there are some other benefits. The building of the facility created 400 jobs for draftsmen, carpenters, and others who lost jobs when the U.S. economy weakened. And now that the facility is running, it will require some full-time employees.
Mike Taylor is the director of research and education at the nonprofit Solar Electric Power Association in Washington, D.C. He said the project puts Florida "on the map."
"It's currently the largest," Taylor said of the DeSoto photovoltaic plant. "But it certainly won't be the last."
Taylor said a one- or two-megawatt project was considered large not long ago. The size has slowly increased each year.
In April, Arizona-based manufacturer First Solar Inc. announced plans to build a 48-megawatt plant in Nevada. It will produce power for about 30,000 homes.
Who knows? Solar energy may be coming soon to an electric company near you!
4. Based on the article, which is most likely to happen?
Energy officials will decide that the sun doesn't shine for enough hours each day to continue using the DeSoto solar panel plant.
After they measure the benefits of the DeSoto facility, Florida lawmakers will set clean energy quotas for electric companies.
Energy officials in northern states will encourage electric companies to switch over to 100 percent solar power.
After they see the power created by the DeSoto facility, many states in the northern U.S. will criticize the use of solar energy.
5. The article states: This is predicted to cut greenhouse gases by more than 3.5 million tons. Combined, that's the same as taking 25,000 cars off the road every year for 30 years, according to figures cited by the company. Which would be the closest synonym for the word cited?
6. This article is placed in a category of news called "Across the U.S." In which other category would this article fit best?
Opinion Question: Now that you have read the article, do you think that solar panel plants are worth the investment? (5 points)
Thought Question: Tables are tools that can be used to organize data. The table below displays some facts about renewable energy sources
Study the table above. Select two types of renewable energy. What are their advantages and disadvantages? Which energy source might be best for your area? Explain why. (5 points)
Math- Company officials say that a number of solar power plants in Florida will significantly reduce greenhouse gases. Gases are expected to be cut by 3.5 million tons. This is about the same as taking 25,000 cars off the road every year for 30 years. Based on these numbers, how many tons of greenhouse gases does an average car produce in a year? (2 points)