Tampa Electric and Tampa International Airport unveiled Thursday a 2 megawatt solar array that produces enough energy daily to power 250 homes, the utility's first major solar project.
The 175,000-square-foot, $6 million project provides shaded parking for 800 cars on the top of the airport's south economy parking garage and is one of the largest in the Tampa Bay area. It actually started producing electricity Dec. 30.
"It is good for all of us," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a brief ceremony. "It is good for this airport. It is good for the kids that will follow us (as) we build an economy that is more sustainable, that is more green, that acknowledges that, yes, the climate is changing."
Tampa Electric, part of TECO Energy, generates 4,700 total megawatts of power, but little of that comes from solar. The airport project would generate 15 times as much energy as all of the utility's renewable energy portfolio combined.
The utility has said the experience it gains on this project will help TECO assess the feasibility of future solar ventures. The company already plans a 23-megawatt solar array at its Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. The project is expected to be completed later this year.
The utility will pay the airport $15,000 a year to lease the garage roof from the airport.
The project feeds Tampa Electric's electric grid for its 725,000 customers but would not directly power the airport. But the airport notes the 2 megawatts generated is enough to power its automated people mover.
With its pending acquisition by Canadian energy conglomerate Emera, ending more than a century of independence for the utility, Tampa Electric president Gordon Gillette seemed to go out of his way to emphasize his company would maintain deep ties to the community.
"One huge thing is not going to change, and that's Tampa Electric's loyalty, commitment and dedication to this amazing community where we work, live and play," Gillette said.
Contact William R. Levesque at [email protected] Follow @Times_Levesque.