Florida public power utilities unveil major solar project

The Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA), along with 12 Florida public power utilities and NextEra Florida Renewables LLC, on May 4 announced plans for a large-scale solar energy project.

FMPA noted that the 12 cities that will purchase power from the project include Alachua, Bartow, Beaches Energy Services (Jacksonville Beach), Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, Homestead, Keys Energy Services (Key West), Kissimmee Utility Authority, Lake Worth, Ocala, Orlando Utilities Commission, Wauchula and Winter Park.

The joint effort, known as the Florida Municipal Solar Project, will see approximately 900,000 solar panels installed on three solar sites expected to be built in Osceola and Orange Counties. Combined, the three solar sites will total approximately 1,200 acres. Total electricity output will be 223.5 megawatts. Each solar site is designed to generate 74.5 megawatts. The power output from this project will be equal to 37,250 average-size rooftop solar systems. 

FMPA also notes that, “the ground-mounted solar panels for this project will be installed with a computer-controlled tracking system to follow the sun daily as it moves from east to west, maximizing power output. As a result, the cost of solar energy from this project is about one-third the cost of a typical private, rooftop system.”

FMPA said that the joint effort is one of the largest municipal-backed solar projects in the United States.

FMPA is serving as the project coordinator, and the 12 public power utilities are member-owners of FMPA. There will be no upfront costs to the cities for participating and they will only pay for power when it is produced.

The builder, owner and operator of the solar farms will be Florida-based NextEra Florida Renewables. 

After an estimated 18-month permitting process, construction is expected to begin in early 2020 and should be operational by June 30, 2020. 

“OUC could have done this on its own, but by partnering with other municipal utilities we can make a dramatic difference not just in Central Florida, but really throughout the entire state,” said Clint Bullock, OUC General Manager & CEO. “We can leverage the economies of scale to bring the price of solar down to a point where a dozen municipal utilities can afford to sign on and I believe this is something people around the country will take notice of.”

OUC customers who want solar energy, but may not own their own homes or are unable to put panels on their roof, can purchase energy from the new project through OUC’s Community Solar program. The remaining power from the new project will be purchased by FMPA member cities from NextEra Florida Renewables, OUC noted.

OUC has committed to a 20-year power purchase agreement with two five-year extensions.

FMPA is a wholesale power agency owned by 31 public power electric utilities. The 31 members of FMPA serve more than two million Floridians and employ more than 3,300 people.