This good news appeared in the Gainesville Sun today June 26,2017. Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum. -A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Large solar farm underway in Alachua/Putnam
Posted Jun 25, 2017 at 3:33 PM Updated Jun 25, 2017 at 11:02 PM
A more than 1,200-acre piece of land straddling east Alachua and west Putnam counties will house more than 330,000 solar panels to help provide energy to Florida Power and Light customers throughout the state.
Construction of the approximately $100 million FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center began last month, and is expected to be completed by year’s end, said Alys Daly, a spokeswoman for FPL.
Located just south of State Road 222 and west of State Road 21 off Price Road between Hawthorne and Melrose, the solar farm is one of eight the power company is building as part of one of the largest solar expansions ever in the eastern U.S., Daly said. About 2.5 million solar panels will be installed at the eight solar farms.
“We build our solar energy centers cost-effectively,” Daly said. “That means over the life of the solar farms, which is approximately 30 years, they will generate enough savings that they will basically pay for themselves through fuel-cost reductions that will also save our customers millions of dollars.”
Like the other seven solar farms FPL is building throughout the state, including the Coral Farms Solar Energy Center in Putnam County’s Florahome, the Horizon Center will generate 74.5 megawatts of zero-emissions’ worth of energy when the sun is shining, Daly said. The Coral Farms energy center is scheduled to be completed in Decemeber.
The six other solar farms are:
- Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center in Brevard County, scheduled to open in March 2018.
- Blue Cypress Solar Energy and Indian River Solar Energy centers in Indian River County, scheduled to open in March 2018 and December 2017, respectively.
- Hammock Solar Energy Center in Hendry County, scheduled to open in March 2018.
- Loggerhead Solar Energy Center in St. Lucie County, scheduled to open in March 2018.
- Wildflower Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County, scheduled to open in December 2017.
The sites are in various stages of early construction, ranging from ground-clearing work to initial infrastructure installation. Currently, FPL has more than 335 megawatts of solar-generating capacity throughout the state, Daly said.
Power from the plants will feed FPL’s energy grid, and will generate enough energy to provide electricity for an estimated 120,000 homes, Daly said.
The solar farm in Hawthorne is being built by Blattner Energy, a Minnesota-based solar power contracting company. The project is still in its early stages, and boxes of solar panels sit as the ground work is done to prepare for their installation. Approximately 20,000 panels have been installed, said Stephen Heiman, a company spokesman who led The Sun on a tour of the facility Thursday morning.
Daly and Heiman both said FPL chose the Hawthorne property for the Horizon Center because it’s flat and has a limited amount of environmentally sensitive and wetland acreage.
Once built, the Horizon Center will provide energy to the FPL energy grid through a process that uses an inverter to convert the energy from direct currents into alternating currents, which is a usable form of energy. That energy will be sent to an on-site substation, where it will be amplified and sent out across the grid to be delivered directly to FPL customers, Heiman said.
Using the sun for fuel, FPL solar energy centers generate zero-emissions power for all its customers, and is the fastest and most cost-effective way to bring more solar to more Floridians, Heiman said.
Solar farms don’t bring increased traffic to communities and need little or no physical monitoring.
Customers served by FPL near Gainesville include 1,252 customers in Hawthorne and Waldo in Alachua County and nearly 20,000 in Putnam County, Daly said.
The solar farm being built in Alachua and Putnam counties will generate enough energy to provide electricity for 30,000 homes.
Another solar farm, the 1.5-megawatt Prairie View Solar Park, sits directly on the Paynes Prairie northern rim. The park sells energy to Gainesville Regional Utilities.
Andrea Cornejo, Staff Photographer