NextEra continues national growth while fighting Oklahoma over air space

While NextEra Energy Inc. continues its fight with the state over construction of wind farms that might interfere in the path of flyways for Vance Air Force Base, the company is expanding its operations throughout the rest of the U.S.

The company has reported a record year for new renewable projects in 2018. It added 6,500 megawatts of solar, wind and storage contracts.

CEO Jim Robo has proclaimed the company’s ability to combine storage with wind and solar to create a renewable energy power plant with guaranteed capacity, according to a report in E and E News.

This means it has solved wind and solar’s biggest problem: intermittency.

The cost of renewables combined with storage is cheaper than coal, nuclear, and less efficient oil and natural gas, Robo said. More than 40 percent of the solar projects added to the company’s backlog included a battery storage component, he said.

“We continue to believe that this will be massively disruptive to the nation’s generation fleet,” Robo told analysts Friday during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call.

Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra grew 15 percent last year with a strategy that is a combination of expanding from within and buying other companies. The renewable energy projects are in the form of long-term contracts that give the company guaranteed revenue.

NextEra also bought Gulf Power Co. from energy giant Southern Co. and wrapped up a deal to buy a small municipal electric company on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Both moves give the company more customers and more chances to invest capital into everything from their generation fleet to their transmission systems.

NextEra’s regulated electric utilities — Florida Power & Light Co. and Gulf Power — now make up 70 percent of the overall company, ensuring robust profits in years to come. Yet company executives said FPL’s balance sheet may be strong enough that it will not have to raise basic electricity rates until at least 2022.

“We have a lot of flexibility,” NextEra CFO John Ketchum said.

There is an additional benefit of having electric companies in Florida: The state continues to grow, and its warm temperatures mean people are frequently running their air conditioners. While most electric companies nationwide are grappling with flat electricity demand, Florida’s electric companies continue to see theirs rise.

Indeed, FPL is close to finishing one natural gas power plant and received approval for another

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