Distributed Energy Resources

Two Fla. solar farms come online as part of FMPA and public power utility partnership

Two Central Florida solar farms that are part of one of the largest municipal-backed solar projects in the nation are now operational, the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) reported on June 30.

Harmony Solar Energy Center in St. Cloud and the Taylor Creek Solar Energy Center in east Orange County near Wedgefield are in the Florida Municipal Solar Project, a partnership between FMPA and 16 Florida public power utilities.

A total of nearly 600,000 solar panels are installed at the two solar sites, filling about 1,500 acres. Each solar farm can generate 74.5 megawatts, for a combined addition of 149 MW.

Six Florida cities will receive power from the two solar sites including Fort Pierce, Jacksonville Beach, Key West, Kissimmee, Ocala and Orlando.

“Today is a major step forward in providing affordable, solar energy to our customers,” said FMPA’s Jacob Williams, general manager and CEO of the Orlando-based wholesale power agency. “Through this project, we are adding to our already low emissions generation portfolio and meeting customers’ expectations to provide solar energy in the most economical way.”

The group is building five solar farms totaling 1.5 million solar panels that will generate nearly 375 MW by the end of 2023. Florida Renewable Partners is the owner operator of three solar sites in Phase 1, and Origis Energy will develop two solar sites in Phase II.

This is the first large utility-scale solar project for FMPA and its members.

The 16 local utilities that will purchase power from the project include: Alachua, Bartow, Beaches Energy Services (Jacksonville Beach), Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, Havana, Homestead, Keys Energy Services (Key West), Kissimmee Utility Authority, Lake Worth Beach, Mount Dora, New Smyrna Beach, Newberry, Ocala, Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), Wauchula and Winter Park. These cities are member-owners of FMPA along with 15 other municipal utilities.

OUC adding 108.5 MW

OUC on June 30 said that it would draw all 74.5 MW of energy generated by the Taylor Creek Solar Energy Center and 34 MW from the Harmony Solar Energy Center.

The openings also mark a major milestone in OUC’s commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with a near-term goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, the public power utility noted.

“This is a monumental event in OUC’s nearly 100-year history,” said Clint Bullock, general manager and CEO, referring to the solar farm openings. “We are on our way to becoming a leading solar energy provider on a watts-per-customer basis in Florida. In a few years, we will reach that goal as we expand our solar generation capacity,” he said.

OUC is planning to add an additional 149 MW of solar energy, bringing its total solar generation capacity to 270.5 MW.

In a related development, OUC expects to begin testing a cloud-tracking technology that could predict the impact of cloud coverage over the Taylor Creek and Harmony solar sites.

Designed and built by University of Central Florida engineering students, the “sky cams” view clouds and gauge their altitude, density, direction and speed, plus predict how soon they’ll shade a solar farm. This innovation could help OUC anticipate momentary losses of solar power due to clouds, giving other power generation units time to fill the gaps.