Florida Power & Light says that its new solar hybrid power plant demonstrates “good energy policy” because it will help to improve energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The US utility has officially inaugurated a 75 MW solar thermal power plant in Martin County, Florida, which connects to an existing natural gas fired combined cycle power plant. The hybrid facility is the first of its kind in the world, according to FPL.

“From job creation to cleaner air to energy security, this project demonstrates the many benefits of investing in large-scale renewable energy, especially in Florida,” said FPL President and CEO Armando J. Olivera. “We’re hopeful that today’s leaders will take action to enable more cost-effective investments like this so we can continue taking dramatic steps forward to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

The solar facility consists of a field of more than 190 000 mirrors that track the sun over the course of the day and use the energy harnessed to boost steam production in the combined cycle power plant. It is the largest solar thermal plant in the eastern USA and is the third major solar project completed by FPL.

The operation of the solar thermal plant is expected to reduce fossil fuel consumption by approximately 41 billion cubic feet of natural gas and more than 600 000 barrels of oil, saving the release of more than 2.75 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the facility’s estimated 30-year lifetime.

“Diversifying our state’s energy sources is not only good energy policy, it can be good for the economy as well,” said Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

The hybrid solar facility was officially declared in-service in November 2010. FPL has already secured and permitted sites where more than 500 MW of new solar power could be built and is ready to launch several projects “right away”, says the firm.

In January Spanish firms Abener and Abengoa Solar said that power generation had begun at a new 470 MW solar hybrid facility in Morocco. These two companies are also building a 150 MW solar combined cycle hybrid plant in Algeria.