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Robert Trigaux

German invasion? Solar project proposals from Germany pop up in Pinellas, Volusia counties



Wake up and good morning. Wouldn't you know it? A day after posting on this Venture blog that Florida's stuck in the slow lane on solar energy advancement comes breaking news that -- not one, but two -- -solar projects of substantial size may be heading to the Sunshine State.

Are the Germans invading -- with solar power? St. Petersburg Times reporter Ivan Penn writes in Friday's paper that a German-based renewable energy group is looking to build the first major solar electricity farm in Pinellas County and bring as many as 160 solar manufacturing jobs to St. Petersburg. The group of about 10 German business people -- still unidentified -- have scheduled a three-day visit June 27-29 to Pinellas County to meet with Progress Energy, business leaders and city and Pinellas County officials.

Writes Penn: "This is a real, financially backed manufacturer that has the ability to open up a factory here," said St. Petersburg City Council member Karl Nurse. Because of confidentiality, Progress Energy and local government officials would not disclose the name of the German businesses or many of the details of what they are proposing.

"I can confirm we have a meeting relatively soon with a company as you described out of Germany," Progress Energy spokesman Tim Leljedal told Penn. "It's a basic introductory meeting." The company would develop and produce solar electricity that would be sold to Progress Energy to supply to its customers.

Trying to squeeze a solar energy farm into crowded Pinellas is a challenge. There's talk that a solar farm could go on the county-owned, 247-acre Toytown landfill site, which is next to Interstate 275 near Roosevelt Boulevard. Read Ivan Penn's complete story here.

But wait. There's more!

While Pinellas waits for their German solar visitors, another German-originated solar project is getting lots of buzz this week on Florida's east coast in Volusia County. According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, there's a plan afoot  for a self-sustained renewable energy complex that would power up to 10,000 DeLand homes through a solar-energy farm that could be the first in Volusia County and among the largest private ventures outside of the state's major utility providers.

ECOHOUSE Development, an Apopka developer and consulting company specializing in renewable energy applications, is about two years into its planning for the multimillion dollar complex that could add hundreds of jobs to the area. The News Journal says that in addition to the 50,000-panel photovoltaic solar farm proposal, the $30 million to $50 million project would feature a research center and a solar photovoltaic greenhouse to safeguard against farming losses from harsh environmental effects. A biogas plant would convert "green waste"-- such as plant material from the greenhouse and or food leftovers from local retailers -- into methane gas that would provide backup power to the site when there's a shortage of energy and at night.

Again, Progress Energy would be the utility to buy the electricity from this solar project, if it were to happen.

Here's the "German" connection. ECOHOUSE owners Richard and Ilonka Haugner, natives of Germany, said they want to see the project become a reality in their adopted hometown of DeLand, or at least in Volusia, where unemployment is at about 10.6 percent. Read the complete News Journal story here.

This may be an invasion Florida should encourage.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times


[Last modified: Friday, June 17, 2011 8:00am]


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