1,000-residential-solar-customer milestone points toward a bright future

Tampa Electric's Shelly Whitworth tells students at Lawton Chiles Elementary all about their school's Tampa Electric-installed photovoltaic array.

Could these students at Lawton Chiles Elementary be part of families that are among Tampa Electric’s next 1,000 rooftop solar customers? Here, Shelly Whitworth explains the science behind the school’s Tampa Electric-installed photovoltaic array.

It’s a nice round number, round like the sun: 1,000. And like the sun itself, Tampa Electric’s milestone of 1,000 solar customers – those with a photovoltaic (PV) array connected to the power grid – shines a bright light on something big happening in the community.

“It’s been incredible to watch our solar initiatives grow over the years at Tampa Electric and to reach and now exceed this milestone,” said Shelly Whitworth, program manager with Marketing & Program Development. “There are definitely challenges we face with regard to solar power as we balance several considerations – including our commitment to reliable power provided equitably and affordably for all our customers. But while we’ll always need traditional power generation, solar power is and will continue to be an important complement to our existing generating portfolio.”

Homes and businesses like these (now more than) 1,000 customers join Tampa Electric’s community-sited solar arrays located at schools and some of the most popular attractions in the Tampa Bay area – including Legoland, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Florida Aquarium – as well as critical entities like Tampa International Airport. Our largest solar array in the community will soon be generating up to 23 megawatts of power on TECO-owned land near our Big Bend Power Station and Manatee Viewing Center (site of still more solar arrays!).

In other words, as we continue to empower our customers, we’re moving ahead on bigger and better realizations of utility-scale solar projects.

“Because of their size and economies of scale, per-kilowatt installed utility-scale solar installations are significantly less than the cost of residential rooftop solar,” said Tom Hernandez, senior vice president of Business Strategy and Renewables with Tampa Electric. “The fact is, both are important, but utilities like Tampa Electric are uniquely positioned to create large-scale installations, and in fact we see it as our responsibility to you to do so – so look for more great news in this area to come.”

Getting to the most efficient and equitable realization of photovoltaics for Florida still has some hurdles. But with the 50 percent decrease in the cost of solar PV over the last five years, the trends are too big to overlook.

With this and more in mind, thanks to our 1,000-plus rooftop solar customers – and to everyone embracing this bright spot in the community’s energy future.

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