Solar Power Ambitions Grow Under Florida Sun

National Solar Power has big plans for the Sunshine State. Last year, the firm announced plans for two large solar farms in Florida: a 400-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Gadsden County and a 200-MW solar farm in Hardee County. Now, National Solar Power has entered into an agreement with Liberty County to build a solar farm—this one up to 100 MW in size. The $350 million project will be constructed on five 200-acre plots of Liberty County property adjacent to the company’s Gadsden County project.

The project will be designed, built and operated by Hensel Phelps Construction—the same firm that rebuilt the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Once ground is broken, the first phase of the project is expected to be online within six to seven months. National Solar Power estimates the project will create up to 100 construction, and up to 25 permanent operations jobs, with an average salary of about $40,000 per year.

National Solar Power, Florida

image via National Solar Power

To finance the project, National Solar Power says it is negotiating with multiple financial institutions and private equity investors. It has also created its own venture capital fund—Green Infrastructure Partners. The fund is externally managed and advised by Solar Capital Management, a subsidiary of National Solar Power Partners.

The company has entered into an agreement with Progress Energy Florida, and is having discussions with other potential customers to purchase power generated by its Florida solar farm projects. Along with the agreement with Progress Energy Florida, National Solar Power has executed power supply agreements for more than 3,000 MW of solar farms in the Southeast.

“Florida is ripe with opportunities to establish successful solar-energy projects. We are thoroughly impressed with the high-level of enthusiasm we’re seeing from economic development, civic and elected leaders across the state,” said National Solar Power CEO James Scrivener.  “We are grateful to the Liberty County community for the warm welcome it has extended to us and stand ready to work with our new partners to build our new network of farms and begin harvesting the power of the sun.”

Incidentally, despite Florida’s abundance of solar energy resources, the rest of the state is not always so welcoming. National Solar Power’s Gadsden and Liberty County projects, near Tallahassee, are about 200 miles west of the heart of Florida’s 6th congressional district—constituency of Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), leader of the House Republicans’ investigation into Solyndra. Despite the fact that Florida is one of the top 10 states in solar power capacity, Stearns is notoriously skeptical of government support for solar energy, and has stated, “we can’t compete with China to make solar panels and wind turbines.”

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).