By Tamas Mondovics

One of the year’s most anticipated events was Tampa Electric Company’s (TECO) newest solar array to serve the Apollo Beach community. The brand new 23-megawatts solar-power facility sits on TECO-owned land across Dickman Road near the Big Bend Power Station and Manatee Viewing Center. The facility’s sheer size and power producing capacity are not only impressive but, according to local government officials, a much-welcomed addition to the growing community.

Original Story printed May 2017

Solar power took center stage during a recent ribbon cutting of Tampa Electric Company’s (TECO) newest array to serve the Apollo Beach community.

TECO officials were pleased to welcome a group of local and statewide leaders, government officials and members of the media for the ceremony, which formally dedicated the installation of the company’s brand new 23-megawatts Big Bend Solar Array solar power facility.

For nearly two decades TECO has been developing solar projects on a smaller scale, but nothing compared to its newest Big Bend project, which occupies 106 acres of Tampa Electric-owned land across Dickman Road near its Big Bend Power Station and Manatee Viewing Center.“This project is the most unique integration of multiple technologies in the entire state of Florida,” said Tom Hernandez, senior vice president of TECO Business Strategy and Renewables. “The design had to consider potential flood conditions, high-wind conditions, the topography of the site itself and the fact that we’re using a new type of thin-film technology and single-access tracking that maximizes the energy output. It’s the most cost-effective way that we’ve found to date to produce reliable clean, reliable solar PV energy and complement our generating fleet.”

TECO officials said that befitting the Sunshine State’s potential for a clean, renewable-energy future, the array—considered the largest to affect West Central Florida—which automatically tilts toward the sun has been generating power since February.

The photovoltaic array includes more than 200,000 thin-film solar panels that track the sun and reportedly produce more than 30 percent more energy than fixed solar arrays.

According to TECO officials the array will provide environmental savings of up to 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide daily, the equivalent of removing up to 6,000 cars from the road.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp presented Tampa Electric with a special commendation on behalf of the community when she said, “I’m so honored to have been a part of the ribbon-cutting for the largest solar project in Hillsborough County.”

Kemp added that the Big Bend Solar Array will bring clean, renewable energy to 3,300 homes. “It’s so wonderful we will be using our own renewable energy resource: the sun.”

Gordon Gillette – president and CEO of Tampa Electric, and president of Florida Operations spoke highly of the new projects as well as its future function.

“This is our first full-size utility-scale solar facility,” he said. “We plan to do a lot more of these types of projects. The investment in large-scale solar and using the latest technology further demonstrates TECO’s commitment to clean energy, delivered to its 730,000 customers.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner, Sandra Murman also took the opportunity to congratulate Gillette and TECO for “Being a leader in our state in trying to move this issue of solar energy forward.”

The Big Bend installation is TECO’s third large-scale solar project since 2015.

The first, a two-MW facility at Tampa International Airport produces enough electricity to power up to 250 homes.

TECO also installed a 1.8-MW solar facility at LEGOLAND Florida Resort and has invested more than $50 million in large-scale solar installations.

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