Gulf Power, military propose state's largest network of solar power plants

Published Jan. 23, 2015

Florida's smallest investor-owned utility is proposing to build the state's largest network of solar power plants as part of an agreement reached with the U.S. military.

Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Georgia-based Southern Co., announced a proposal Thursday to build a total of 120 megawatts of utility-scale solar power at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Holley Field in Navarre and Saufley Field in Pensacola. The joint effort among Gulf Power, the Navy, Air Force and HelioSage, the project's developer, will help meet the U.S. Department of Defense's goal of achieving 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.

If approved by the state Public Service Commission, Gulf Power's solar capacity will surpass that of the 110-megawatt Florida Power & Light, the state's largest investor-owned utility, installed in 2009 and 2010.

"This is an important collaboration between Gulf Power, the Navy and the Air Force," said Stan Connally, president and CEO of Pensacola-based Gulf Power. "As military installations seek solutions to promote renewable-energy generation, we have worked alongside our military customers to help provide cost-effective solutions — and all our customers will reap the benefit."

If all regulatory issues are approved, HelioSage would begin construction in February 2016. The project is expected to come online in December 2016.

Gulf Power is the latest of Southern Co.'s subsidiaries to win a contract with the military to install solar.

Last year, Georgia Power led the way with plans for a total of 90 megawatts at three Army bases and 30 megawatts at a Naval facility.

The announcement by Gulf Power drew immediate praise from environmentalists, who cited the projects as further indication that solar is feasible now.

"The military has correctly identified that using solar energy to diversify its energy mix and build resilience for its energy infrastructure is good news for national security and for taxpayers," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

"SACE recognizes that utility-scale solar is an important part of a robust and strong solar market," Smith said. "Large projects like this one can bring tremendous value to ratepayers in the state of Florida."

Contact Ivan Penn at or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge.