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Solar energy packs power for Gulfport blues festival

Solar proponents Jeff Adams, left, and Mario Farias are shown with the type of solar power panels to be used at the Tangerine Blues Festival next weekend in Gulfport. The system can power a 1,200-square-foot home for 19 hours a day.

LARA CERRI | Times

Solar proponents Jeff Adams, left, and Mario Farias are shown with the type of solar power panels to be used at the Tangerine Blues Festival next weekend in Gulfport. The system can power a 1,200-square-foot home for 19 hours a day.

When Gulfport's popular Tangerine Blues Festival powers up next weekend, it will largely rely on the sun — both day and night.

The festival will take a first-of-its-kind step in the Tampa Bay area with the use of two portable solar power systems. The 10-kilowatt units have the capacity to power a 1,200-square-foot house for at least 19 hours a day and potentially 24 hours with more conservative use.

For the Tangerine Blues Festival, it could prove critical. The festival site lacks outlets to support the electricity demand.

"There just isn't enough power for the festival," said Walter Dill, the secretary of the 49th Street South Business Association, which puts on the festival with the cities of Gulfport and St. Petersburg.

"Some people brought powered generators and burned the fuel, which wasn't good for the environment," Dill said. "This is an opportunity to be more green."

The festival, which runs from 3 to 10 p.m. Sept. 24, draws an annual crowd of more than 5,000 to the Tangerine Greenway off 49th Street South in Gulfport. It features bands and more than three dozen vendors.

Solar energy will supply power for the vendors while electricity from the grid will power the stage and musicians. The solar system will also serve as the emergency backup power for any failure of electricity from the grid.

The portable solar unit — a compact system of 10 solar panels and a battery on a 22-foot hitch trailer — was provided free by two proponents of renewable energy.

Mario Farias and Jeff Adams, who are leading negotiations for a group of German businesses to launch solar projects in St. Petersburg, offered the portable units. Farias and Adams have contracted with the maker of the product, California-based D.C. Solar, to manufacture the same type of units in St. Petersburg.

That will give D.C. Solar a manufacturing operation on the West Coast and one in the eastern United States. The operation, set to open up within the next 90 days, is expected to bring 60 jobs to the city, including welders and electricians.

Farias and Adams said they wanted to show that solar power systems are available now.

"Everything has changed," Farias said. "This is the next technology. We're looking at science fiction right here."

The system is expensive. The full package runs about $100,000. So Farias and Adams said they will be offering it as a rental product at about $150 a day or $800 a month. In addition to festivals, the systems could be used for power in disaster areas and to replace back generators for hospitals and other services.

A festival such as the Tangerine Blues generally requires multiple generators to handle refrigerators, stoves and other vendor equipment.

Those generators run about $90 apiece per day plus fuel costs at $3.50 to $5 a gallon. Rental companies often supply the first 5 gallons of fuel, which will last about five to seven hours.

The solar system would replace multiple gas generators at a lower cost.

"If you just needed to power one thing, it would be a loser," Adams said. "But it's a bargain for something like a festival."

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Consumers_Edge and find the Consumer's Edge on Facebook.

Solar energy packs power for Gulfport blues festival 09/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 10:31pm]
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