TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co.'s future will be green if new CEO Nancy Tower has anything to say about it. Speaking at a University of Tampa panel Tuesday, Tower outlined her plan to move the Tampa-based utility toward a completely renewable energy portfolio.
But "that won't happen until we crack the battery storage nut," Tower said. "The sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow."
To crack that nut, Tampa Electric is getting help from a name that's becoming increasingly well-known in the renewable energy space — Tesla Inc.
"We are working with leaders like Tesla in a number of markets to test the battery storage," Cherie Jacobs, Tampa Electric spokesperson, said, including both Tampa and Canadian markets. Tampa Electric's parent company, Emera Inc., is based in Canada.
Tesla, a California-based automotive and battery company headed by Elon Musk, has moved into the solar market recently, offering solar panels for residential roofs. Musk is up for a large compensation package that requires Tesla to grow by $50 billion each year over a decade, according to an agreement revealed Tuesday.
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Battery research is the latest move in Tampa Electric's push toward energy sources such as wind and solar. In September, the company committed to build 600 megawatts of solar energy capability by 2021, which would be enough power for 100,000 homes.
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"One of the biggest things we're trying to do is 'green' our fleet of generators," Tower said during the Tampa event.
The "greening" comes amid tumult in the solar energy space because of a new tariff. President Donald Trump on Monday approved a 30 percent tariff on imported solar modules effective immediately. The add-on will last four years.
Related coverage: Trump applies tariffs to solar panels, washing machines>
Tampa Electric does not expect to be affected by the tariff. Its projects use a different kind of solar panel that is exempt.
"We expect to complete the projects on time and on budget," Jacobs said.
In the meantime, Tower is working on other goals for the near-future, including integrating mobile apps for customers and strengthening the community ties that she said the utility has historically prided itself on.
Tower is a longtime Emera executive who succeeded Gordon Gillette as CEO of the company last year when Gillette announced his retirement.
Contact Malena Carollo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo