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State regulators approve deal that will create largest solar project in Florida

Published Apr. 16, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — State regulators on Thursday approved a deal that will create Florida's largest solar project and provide power to the Sunshine State's smallest investor-owned utility.

Gulf Power asked the state Public Service Commission to allow the utility to purchase power from three proposed solar plants under development by Gulf Coast Solar Center, a subsidiary of HelioSage LLC.

The project includes solar photovoltaic plants totaling 120 megawatts at military bases in the Panhandle.

"We support this important partnership between Gulf Power and the Air Force and the Navy that will play a major role in Florida's energy future," PSC chairman Art Graham said. "The solar facilities will diversify the utility's power supply and increase Florida's emissions-free electricity generation."

The solar facilities include:

• 50-megawatt facility at Pensacola's Saufley Field;

• 40-megawatt facility at Navarre's Holley Field;

• 30-megawatt plant at Fort Walton Beach's Eglin Air Force Base.

With the combined 120 megawatts of output — enough power for 18,000 homes — the solar facilities are expected to be operational in late 2016.

Projected to increase Gulf Power's renewable energy generation by more than 600 percent, the proposed solar facilities will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3.5 million tons and save between $2.8 million and $17.4 million over the 25-year terms of the three contracts.

When the project is completed, Gulf Power's solar capacity will surpass the 110 megawatts Florida Power & Light, the state's largest investor-owned utility, installed in 2009 and 2010.

Gulf Power serves more than 436,000 customers in eight northwest Florida counties.

Contact Ivan Penn at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332.