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Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) is proposing a voluntary, community-based, solar partnership pilot program for consideration by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC).

If approved, FPL says it will install new solar-powered generating facilities in Florida communities, funded by voluntary contributions from FPL customers who choose to participate in the pilot program. The utility notes that the three-year pilot will not increase electric bills for customers who choose not to participate.

According to FPL, its customers can elect to contribute $9 a month for the program. During the next three years, FPL projects that the initiative could support the construction of as many as 25 commercial-scale distributed solar arrays for an estimated total of up to 2.4 MW, depending on customer participation.

The pilot program is expected to begin accepting voluntary customer contributions in 2015, the utility reports. FPL plans to provide the initial necessary funding so that the installation of at least the first two to five solar arrays can begin in early 2015, in anticipation of receiving sufficient funding from customers. The arrays will be constructed by Florida-based solar installers selected through a competitive bid process.

Among the first communities selected to host the new solar arrays are Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota and West Palm Beach, FPL adds.

As an incentive to encourage customer participation during the pilot, the utility says the charitable foundation of FPL's parent company, NextEra Energy, will contribute a total of $200,000 a year on behalf of the program to Florida-based nonprofit organizations and local chapters of national nonprofits dedicated to environmental protection and community development. Customers who sign up for the initiative will have the opportunity to select their preferred organization from a list of several nonprofits.

"We know that some of our customers have an affinity for solar power, but we also know that for a variety of reasons, many are not able to install it themselves," comments FPL President Eric Silagy. "This pilot program will allow us, along with the PSC, to truly gauge customer interest in supporting solar power."

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