Lakeland Electric will hold a press announcement at the Sun n Fun Fly-In on Wednesday, March 30th at 2 p.m. announcing the construction of a 5.5 megawatt (MW) solar farm to be deployed in alliance with SunEdison at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. Once the dual-phased solar farm is completed, it is expected to generate more than 216 million kilowatt hours of clean solar energy over 25 years. Details of the project will be shared during the announcement.
The first phase of the solar farm is expected to break ground in June and completed by the end of 2011. The second phase is expected to be completed in 2012. Once the solar farm is constructed, it is expected to be comprised of more than 18,000 solar panels and generate an estimated 9 million kWh of solar electricity annually.
“Lakeland Electric is very excited about this project because environmental stewardship and renewable energy options are keys to our success as a utility. It is vital that every utility consider carefully how to meet customers’ increasing needs for electricity and do it in a way that is fiscally and environmentally prudent. Deploying utility-scale solar with no upfront costs is a win-win for Lakeland. We have already partnered with SunEdison on roof top implemented solar program but this project will be on a much larger scale.” noted Jim Stanfield, General Manager for Lakeland Electric.
The 5.5MW solar farm was made possible through a strategic solar power service agreement between SunEdison and Lakeland Electric. In the agreement SunEdison will finance and deploy the solar farm with no upfront costs from Lakeland Electric. In return, Lakeland Electric will purchase the power produced at long-term predictable rates for 25 years—adding to Lakeland’s energy mix while helping to improve the environment.
City of Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields said, “While our partnership with SunEdison is the latest green effort from Lakeland Electric, as a municipal government we have been installing more energy-efficient lights in our buildings, gone to LED traffic signals and converted to more energy efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in our larger facilities.” He added, “We have no intention of stopping here. As a utility, we have upcoming plans that include additional large scale roof top solar installations because renewable energy is definitely the way of the future.
Over 25 years, the solar farm will produce enough clean energy to power more than 15,500 Lakeland homes for one year. In that same amount of time, the solar farm will offset more than 299 million pounds of carbon dioxide – equivalent to removing more than 29,000 cars from the road for one year.
Lakeland Electric is the third largest public power utility in the State of Florida. The utility is also one of the first utilities established in Florida having started operation in 1889. Today, power is generated at Lakeland Electric’s two main power plants, the 941-megawatt McIntosh Power Plant and the 176-megawatt Larsen Power Plant. The utility also operates a group of energy-efficient generating units capable of providing up to 50-megawatts of additional electricity when other units are out of service or during periods when demand for electricity is highest. Lakeland Electric also has been on the forefront of introducing renewable energy to its customers with an early solar hot water heater program and now solar is a viable addition to the generation mix.