Sunshine state makes solar powered moves

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It’s the Sunshine State, and after being a leader of the solar industry as far back as the 1970s, it had begun to slump earlier this decade while the rest of the nation moved forward. But in recent years, the state is coming back as a force to be reckoned with.

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved $46 million in rate base recovery for utility Tampa Electric Company (TECO) on 260.3 MW-AC of solar power across five projects, which are expected to come online and start delivering electricity by January 1, 2019. TECO bought the projects, paying approximately $1.5/W-AC to various developers (see documents at end of article).

Peace Creek Solar Facility (.pdf of Planning and Zoning of Project)

TECO plans to have close to 600 MW-AC of solar power online by the end of 2020, at which point 7% of its electricity will come from solar power. Currently, it has 27 MW-AC of solar power online, but noted in a recent press release that 150 MW-AC was supposed to have come online in September. The company projects that it will spend $850 million to purchase these projects.

The utility was allowed to rate base $46 million of the project’s costs – about 17¢/W-DC, also equal to about 0.246¢/kWh. It was suggested by Carlos Aldazabal, TECO’s  VP for regulatory affairs on Florida Politics, that this rate recovery, when paired with the fuel savings ($17 million) plus tax benefits, “essentially offsets the entire impact of the solar base rate adjustment”. The PSC suggested it would partially offset the costs.

TECO projects that all of the solar power projects, $850 million worth, will increase customer bills by 1%.

In addition to these five projects, TECO is also getting ready to acquire another 55 MW-AC project, the Mountain View Solar. (.pdf of image). The project is noted in the Tampa Bay Times as being a $75 million investment for a 55 MW-AC system size. The northern edge of the property has a 69 KV powerline. It seems ESA Renewables is the original project developer, and that some of the management team created a new company – Luna Solar Energy – to oversee the project.

Located in Appendix A, starting at page 12, of the PSC document package (.pdf) are notes on the specific projects. The Lithia, Grange Hall, Peace Creek, Bonnie Mine and Lake Handcock projects are sized, respectively, 74.5 MW-AC, 61.1 MW-AC, 55.4 MW-AC, 37.5 MW-AC and 49.5 MW-AC. They are all single-axis tracker projects, with projected capacity factors in their first full year of operations being projected between 26.06% and 27.2%.

High level project pricing, and site drawings, were located in a later exhibit in the document:

No information on solar modules and DC ratings were found, however, if there were a 1.3:1 DC to AC ratio, then we’d see close to 338 MW-DC of solar power being installed.