DADE CITY – Tampa Electric is proposing a 350-acre solar energy farm in rural Pasco County to produce 55 megawatts of electricity, part of the company's plan to install 6 million solar panels in 10 sites over the next three years.
The Pasco project represents a $75 million investment in solar energy, said Tampa Electric spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs.
The company will be acquiring much of the land from Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and his wife, Kathy, who own 252 acres in the vicinity of Blanton Road. The Simpsons bought the land from Well Fargo's real estate arm for $1.5 million in 2016.
Prior owners had targeted the land, near the Dade City campus of Pasco-Hernando State College, for residential development in projects dubbed Berry Hill Estates and later, College Hill. Area residents resisted those projects, arguing the proposed influx of suburban housing development contradicted the special protections granted the rural area under Pasco County's comprehensive land-use plan.
The solar project requires a county permit, known as a special exception, before it can operate on the agricultural land. Tampa Electric is hosting a neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the PHSC campus conference facility to discuss its plans. Among the considerations, the southeast corner of the project site includes a bald eagle's nest, requiring a 660-foot buffer between it and the nearest solar panel.
ESA Renewables, headquartered in Castellon, Spain, first proposed a 15-megawatt solar panel project on 90 acres of the Simpsons' land 11 months ago. Some of the managers of ESA formed a new company called Luna Solar Energy in December to oversee the Pasco project, which has grown by nearly four-fold and now is called Mountain View Solar. Tampa Electric said it expects the project to be completed by the end of the year.
The company announced an $850 million investment in solar energy in September. It plans to produce 600 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 100,000 homes, and to generate 7 percent of its total energy production from the sun.
Contact C.T. Bowen at email@example.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2