Twelve municipal utilities and the Florida Municipal Power Association broke ground Monday morning for a massive, new solar-energy project that should provide enough electricity to power 45,000 homes.
The project, a partnership with the FMPA, the participating utilities, and Florida Renewable Partners will involve more than 900,000 solar panels, cover as much ground in Orange and Osceola counties as 900 football fields, and be able to generate 223.5 megawatts of zero-emissions energy.
“We are pleased to start construction on a project of this size, which will enable us to provide affordable, emissions-free solar power to our customers,” FMPA’s Jacob Williams, general manager and CEO of the Orlando-based wholesale power agency, stated in a news release. “By working together, the cities can build a larger, more efficient facility to help make solar energy cost effective.”
The 12 systems participating are Alachua, Bartow, Beaches Energy Services (Jacksonville Beach), Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, Homestead, Keys Energy Services (Key West), Kissimmee Utility Authority, Lake Worth Beach, Ocala, Orlando Utilities Commission, Wauchula, and Winter Park.
Construction on phase one of the project will continue through mid-2020. When complete, the power output from this project will be equal to 37,250 average-size rooftop solar systems.
To enhance efficiency, the ground-mounted solar panels will be installed with a computer-controlled tracking system that moves the panel to track the sun as it travels from east to west, maximizing power output.
Buying and installing the solar panels in such large quantities and using technology to make them as efficient as possible, the cost of solar energy from this project is about one-third the cost of electricity from a typical private, rooftop system.
FMPA is serving as the project coordinator, and the 12 municipal utilities, who are member-owners of FMPA, will purchase power from the project. The builder, owner and operator of the solar farms is Florida Renewable Partners, whose parent company is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from wind and the sun.
While construction of the first phase is underway, FMPA and its members are working to expand its solar power generation. The utilities are looking to grow the project to a total of 375 megawatts by 2023.