Tampa Electric uses sheep to take care of the landscape at its solar farms.

By Brad Stager

Tremendous growth in the number of homes and businesses in the Tampa Bay area, especially in Southern Hillsborough County, means a greater need for electrical energy, and Tampa Electric Company is using the sun to help produce it.

The utility has announced plans to increase its solar power by 600MW before the end of 2023. The additional power will about double TECO’s solar output to 1250MW, which, according to the company, is enough electrical power capacity to service 200,000 homes.

When the additional solar power is completely online, TECO’s use of solar energy will be about 14 percent of the utility’s total generated power. According to a TECO news release, that amount of solar energy production “would be the highest percentage of solar power of any utility in the state.”

The $800 million investment in solar power is a commitment to sustainability and affordability, according to the company’s leadership.

“Our customers want a cleaner energy future for themselves—and their children,” said Nancy Tower, president and chief executive officer of Tampa Electric. “We are committed to continue to lead Tampa Electric toward cleaner energy while ensuring our prices remain affordable for customers.”

According to TECO Spokesperson Cherie Jacobs, the solar farms will make a difference in protecting the environment in the area it serves.

“When complete, the solar expansion will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 500,000 tons every year, which is roughly equal to removing 100,000 cars from the road,” she wrote in an email. “Thanks to our existing investment in solar power, Tampa Electric has already saved more than 1.4 billion gallons of water—significantly helping an area of the state that has critical concerns over water use.”

Jacobs added that TECO is planning to continue its solar expansion, including the purchase of 1,200 acres of former Del Monte farmland straddling the Hillsborough/Polk County line.

Currently, TECO operates a dozen solar power farms to help service its 780,000 customers in West Central Florida, including South Hillsborough County locations in Balm, Lithia, Little Manatee River, Grange Hall (south of SR 674) and Wimauma.