TALLAHASSEE — The Public Service Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to allow Tampa Electric to purchase solar energy from a West Palm Beach-based company in 2011 and charge its customers premium prices for it.
The agreement allows Energy 5.0 to build a 25 megawatt plant next year and sell its electricity exclusively to TECO for a fixed price over the next 25 years.
TECO will be allowed to charge its customers an estimated 52 cents a month beginning in 2011 to pay for the solar power,. The cost to customers would drop to 19 cents a month in 2035, and could be lowered even more if state and federal governments establish renewable energy credits that utility companies can receive.
The $130 million solar photovoltaic electric plant, called Florida Solar I, will serve 3,400 homes in TECO's service area at an undisclosed cost per kilowatt hour. The company argues that it will be slightly less expensive to operate than Florida Power & Light's new DeSoto County solar plant, which opened in October as the nation's largest project of its kind.
Commissioner Nathan Skop was the only vote against the decision because he thought the negotiated contract price was overpaid. "I feel the ratepayers are overpaying. It's not because I do not support renewables," he said.
The staff had urged the commission to accept the application without allowing customers to be charged the full cost of the solar-powered electricity, only a portion of it. TECO said that would kill the project.
Commissioners Matthew Carter, Nancy Argenziano and David Klement said they approved the project to jump-start the renewable energy market in Florida.