Monday, April 22, 2013

Lakeland Electric: 45-acre Solar Farm Goes Online Monday

LAKELAND | A year ago, politicians and city officials recognized the groundbreaking of a new solar farm at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

On Monday, they'll return to mark the final installation of 22,000 solar panels on the 45-acre solar farm.

A "flip the switch" ceremony at 1 p.m. at 4250 Hamilton Road will mark the opening of the plant, which will generate three megawatts of power through 12,528 recently installed solar panels. The solar farm already generates 2.3 megawatts of power. A megawatt equals 1 million watts of power.

In all, it's enough to power 2,000 homes, said Jeff Curry, alternative energy coordinator for Lakeland Electric. Even with the new farm, solar power only produces about 1 percent of Lakeland Electric's total power output.

The deal for the solar farm was made with Maryland-based SunEdison. The city pays the company a locked-in rate of 17 cents per kilowatt-hour for the next 25 years. The current rate is 11 cents.

Curry said the rate could be a good deal in the coming years if prices start to increase.

It's the biggest solar project for Lakeland Electric. The utility already has solar panels on top of The Lakeland Center. Those panels cover roughly an acre and produce one-quarter of a megawatt. He said there is an anti-reflecting coating that absorbs the sunlight. Each morning, the panels move in an eastern direction toward the sun. The panels move through the day to absorb as much sunlight as possible.

He said the utility is considering construction of a five megawatt solar farm next year behind the Glendale wastewater treatment plant in South Lakeland.

Also, Curry said, utility officials are in early talks with Polk State College officials about the possibility of a one megawatt solar farm at the college in Lakeland in a nearby grove.

In a press release, Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields said the city has been going green for years.

"While our partnership with SunEdison is probably the largest and most visible green effort from Lakeland Electric, as a municipal government we have been installing more energy-efficient lights in our buildings, we have moved to LED traffic signals and we have converted to more energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in our larger facilities," Fields said.


No comments: