Tampa Electric to Build Region’s Biggest Solar Array at Tampa International Airport

solar panels tampa floridaThe Tampa Bay region will soon have a utility-scale solar array, thanks to the recent announcement of a 2 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) installation to be constructed by Tampa Electric on the roof of a building at the Tampa International Airport.

The new project, which is expected to be completed and producing solar power by the end of 2015, will cover 280,000 square feet of the top of Tampa International Airport’s south Economy Parking Garage with solar panels, with a capacity of 2 MW. The $5 to 6 million installation is the utility’s first large-scale solar project, and although it’s small by utility-scale standards, considering that Tampa Electric currently produces only .135 MW of solar out of its total 4,500 megawatts, it’s a significant step forward for solar in Tampa.

Although the installation will be at the Tampa Airport, the solar electricity produced by the array will not go to the airport directly, but will instead feed the grid. The airport will receive $15,000 per year through a 25 year lease agreement with Tampa Electric, and according to the Tampa Bay Times, if the project is successful, the size of the PV array may be expanded.

Tampa Electric President Gordon Gillette indicated that the new solar project would be a learning experience for the company, and the challenge would inform their future in solar power.

“We have to begin to determine our future in solar. It’s a lot less costly than a [conventional] power plant.” – Gillette

Solar in Florida hasn’t kept pace with other similar states with high solar potential, perhaps in part because of the lack of statewide solar incentives or strong renewable energy policies, which have not encouraged the wider adoption of solar. The Mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn, was quoted as saying that the decision to go solar is “a no-brainer”:

For us not to have developed the solar industry in our state is astounding. I understand the power companies are reluctant, but it’s imperative we reduce our carbon footprint. I’m glad to see Tampa Electric shifting its mindset and adapting to the new technology.” – Buckhorn

For homeowners in the Tampa area that want to go solar, the Federal renewable energy tax credit for solar power will apply, and Tampa Electric has a solar rebate program in place that offers $2 per watt, up to a maximum of $20,000.

For commercial and corporate properties, Florida offers a Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit equal to to $0.01 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar electricity produced and sold “to an unrelated party” during the tax year.

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Cost of Solar

October 1, 2014

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