Tampa Electric Company (TECO) has announced it will commit to investing $850 million to increase its solar power capabilities over the next four years.
This announcement comes less than a year after TECO Energy, owned by Canadian based Emera Inc., collaborated with USF to help with the Student Green Energy Fund Solar Panel Project. During the summer 2017, 1,075 solar panels were installed on the third- and fourth-level roofs of the Marshall Student Center. The solar panels generate about 525,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually, which is enough energy to power about 39 homes.
The effort made by USF to move to renewable energy was estimated to reduce the schools’ carbon dioxide emission by about 370 metric tons each year. TECO was able to meet and offer resources to help USF during the planning and implementation of the project.
According to a TECO news release, the company will install 6 million solar panels in its service territory. This will produce about 600 megawatts (MW) of solar power capacity by the year 2021. This is enough to power about 100,000 homes while also significantly reducing TECO’s carbon dioxide emissions.
After this announcement by TECO, U.S. Rep. of Florida’s 14th district Kathy Castor (D), Vice Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee praised the company for their renewable energy efforts.
“Tampa Electric and Emera’s announcement today marks a significant step toward harnessing the power of solar energy for consumers and businesses in the Tampa Bay area,” Castor said. “Florida is far behind other states in its commitment to clean energy and energy efficiency technology. Meanwhile the costs of the changing climate continue to grow.
“Florida cannot afford to miss out on the clean energy jobs and cost-saving technologies of the future. Tampa Electric’s new investment in solar energy and conservation sets the Tampa Bay area on the path to a cleaner environment, lower costs and the higher-paying jobs in clean energy.”
The first phase of this expansion is expected to be completed by September 2018 and will include two projects equaling about 150 MW. The second phase will include four projects totaling about 250 MW and is expected to end January 2019. There will be two more phases completed in 2020 and 2021, completing the total addition of 600 MW.
This expansion of solar power means TECO will receive about 7 percent of its energy from solar by 2021, the highest of any Florida utility company.
Gordon Gillette, president and chief executive officer of the Tampa-based utility, commented on TECO’s shift to renewables in its news release.
“This is a continuation of Tampa Electric’s longstanding commitment to clean energy,” Gillette said. “We have long believed in the promise of renewable energy, and we believe now is the time to add large utility-scale solar generation, as the costs of construction have come down and while federal tax credits remain in place. And Emera’s philosophy is to transition power generation to less carbon intensity while remaining affordable for our customers.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the cost to consumers is expected to lessen over time from lower fuel costs, but they will see an initial $1 increase when all the projects are completed.
“Our customers have asked us for more solar technology, and we heard them,’’ Gillette said. “This expansion in solar power will have minimal initial rate impact and will be cheaper for customers in the long run.”