Not only is it Tampa Electric’s largest installation, it’s the largest in the Tampa Bay area. Rated at 23 megawatts (MW), the photovoltaic (PV) facility we’re building on 106 acres of land near the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach will consist of more than 200,000 solar panels and produce enough energy from the sun to power nearly 3,300 homes.
“Our investment in large-scale solar further demonstrates our commitment to clean energy,” said Gordon Gillette, president and CEO of Tampa Electric and president of Florida Operations. “We’re taking advantage of declining solar prices and the land we own at Big Bend to make this investment more cost-competitive – so we can continue to deliver affordable and reliable energy to our 730,000 customers.”
The Big Bend installation is the third large-scale solar project for Tampa Electric since 2015. The first, a 2-MW facility on the top floor of Tampa International Airport’s south economy parking garage, produces enough electricity to power up to 250 homes. Last month, construction began on Tampa Electric’s 1.8-MW solar facility at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort, with completion scheduled before the end of 2016.
Unlike the company’s other PV installations, the Big Bend system has been designed to tilt the more than 200,000 panels to track east to west, maximizing their exposure to the sun and the amount of electricity they produce.
“It’s a first-of-its-kind for Tampa Electric,” said Guy Morris, project manager with Tampa Electric’s Engineering & Project Management team. “This system will be connected to on-site weather-monitoring stations that automatically identify high-wind conditions and move the panels to a position that safely withstand high-wind conditions. The station has been designed to withstand hurricane winds and flood conditions.”
Scheduled for completion in early 2017, there is a lot of activity at and around the construction site, which is bordered by U.S. Hwy. 41 and Dickman road.
“There will be approximately 138 trucks delivering solar panels alone,” said Karen Bramley, manager of Bulk Fuel Origination. “A new substation is being built on-site that will connect the power generated by the solar panels to an existing 69-kilovolt transmission line.”
Tampa Electric has invested more than $50 million in large-scale solar installations in recent years. Since 2000, customers have been able to voluntarily purchase renewable energy from the company’s other solar arrays at LEGOLAND Florida, the Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry, Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center and two schools.