PARRISH (FOX 13) - A year ago, a large plot of land in Parrish was bare. Today, it represents the future of energy. The brand new Manatee Solar Energy Center was unveiled by Florida Power and Light's CEO Eric Silagy on Monday.
"Having clean energy, I believe, is not only the right thing to do, but it's the smart thing to do for business," he said. "Tourists don't want to come to a place where the air is foul and the beaches aren't clean."
There are 343,186 solar panels in Manatee County. They stretch about two miles long and have the capacity of powering more than 15,000 homes.
There are two more sites just like this one in Citrus and Charlotte counties. Combined, more than a million solar panels are soaking up the Florida sunshine and delivering it as electricity to 45,000 homes.
The solar plants are built around land to preserve wetlands and natural habitats. FPL's efforts have been applauded by the state's top officials.
"Florida is a state that derives a lot of our appeal and a lot of our economic value from the sun, the water and the land. To harness our energy from that is just logical," said Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.
Putnam said, while solar power is making great strides in Florida, one hurdle remains: Companies have to figure out how to store the energy.
"How do you harness the energy that is being produced right now to be used in the evening?" he offered.
FPL said the panels will help keep costs down for their company and homeowners. That power is already being generated.
FPL announced Monday morning they plan on opening another eight solar power plants by 2018. They will make up more than 2.5 million solar panels and will be able to store 600 megawatts of energy, which can power approximately 120,000 homes.
"People who turned on their light switches in Manatee County and St. Petersburg and Bradenton, it goes into the grid, it goes the speed of light and it's right there," added Silagy.