Conservancy policy team working to protect Florida panther habitat
Over the past several years, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has been actively engaged in discussion with Florida Power and Light (FPL) regarding their proposed new facilities in Hendry County. Our dialogue has focused on identification of site design modifications to avoid impacting ecological resources, especially wetlands and primary panther habitat.
Panther biologists have defined primary panther habitat as the essential habitat needed to sustain the current population of panthers. As many other species also utilize primary habitat, its protection results in far-reaching ecological benefits.
One site, known has Hammock Solar, will be located near LaBelle. This is a solar only facility that will produce 74.5 megawatts of energy on a 957 acre site. Hendry County approved this site on April 25, 2017.
The second site is near Clewiston, and is much larger — nearly 4,700 acres with the capacity to produce 2,675 megawatts of energy. This site was approved by Hendry County on May 9, 2017. This site contains both primary and secondary panther habitat as well as native vegetation.
The Conservancy met on numerous occasions with FPL staff and consultants to discuss ways in which they could design their facilities in a manner which avoided important natural resources. Based on these collaborative conversations, FPL made the decision to design both sites to avoid wetlands and minimize impacts on natural surroundings by conserving native vegetation and primary panther habitat.
On the Hammock Solar parcel, all solar panels will be located outside primary and secondary panther habitat. The final site plan for the facility near Clewiston sets aside nearly 2,300 acres under a conservation easement, which encompasses all of the primary panther habitat and native vegetation. In the future, there is the possibility of a natural gas plant at this location. The Conservancy does remain concerned about how natural gas will be piped to the plant, and we plan to stay engaged in this process.
Learn more about the work of the Conservancy’s policy team at www.conservancy.org/policy.