By Sandy Meyer
Tampa Electric, subsidiary of TECO Energy, recently announced that the utility will build the largest solar project in the Tampa Bay area. The 25-megawatt (MW) facility will feature more than 70,000 solar panels on 125 acres of company-owned land at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. The project is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2016 and will be the largest ever solar project built by Tampa Electric with the capacity to power more than 3,500 homes.
The new solar panels will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“Here is another opportunity that we’ve taken to build something that’s actually going to reduce our emissions even further because when you’re generating power from a solar power plant, you don’t have to produce as much from a traditional coal plant,” said Sylvia Vega, public relations specialist at Tampa Electric. “There will also be a slight reduction in the fuel portion of the customer bill which will happen immediately as soon as this is operational next year.”
The Big Bend installation is the second large-scale solar project being built by Tampa Electric. The first, a 2-MW facility at Tampa International Airport, is under construction on the top floor of the airport’s south economy parking garage. Scheduled to be completed and online by the end of the year, it will be able to produce enough electricity to power up to 250 homes, or roughly the equivalent of the airport’s new 1.4-mile automated people mover.
“Tampa Electric has a long history of pursuing and supporting solar power,” said Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas. “With this project, we will have invested more than $50 million in solar since 2000. We’re pleased to be able to demonstrate our commitment to providing our customers with more renewable energy by taking advantage of declining solar system prices and the land we own at Big Bend.”
The Big Bend site includes Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center, which has hosted more than 4.3 million visitors since it opened in 1986. That number will increase with construction underway at the Florida Conservation and Technology Center just south of the property. For more information, visit www.tampaelectric.com.