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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 7 months ago

Ocoee to construct two solar farms

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During the Jan. 3 Ocoee commission meeting, city leaders approved the first reading of a construction contract for two planned solar farms.
by: Gabby Baquero Staff Writer

With the planned construction of two solar farms, the city of Ocoee will soon hop on the solar-energy bandwagon by March 2017. Florida ranks third in the nation for rooftop solar potential, but, despite its nickname – the Sunshine State – it ranks 14th for cumulative solar capacity installed.

However, Ocoee stands to be one of the first local cities to install solar farms, and over the next five years, Florida is expected to install 2,315 megawatts of solar electric capacity, which would bring its rank up to ninth in the nation, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

One of the city’s solar farms will be located at the Utilities Administration Building, and the second will be located at the South Water Treatment Plant, with each measuring about 200 feet long and 16 feet wide.

“The idea is just to offset some of the energy demands that we create,” said Ocoee Utilities Director Charles Smith. “And this project will offset anywhere from 1 to 3% of the demand that we do. We spend over half a million dollars every year on electrical energy, and while this is a small amount, it will offset some of it, and this is kind of a pilot test for maybe some larger solar farms in the future here.”

The estimated cost per solar farm is $80,000 to $85,000, and the funding will be taken from the fiscal year 2016 and 2017 budget. Their locations were chosen due to the city’s high-energy demands in those two buildings.

The one caveat of the project, however, is that it will take about 12 years to pay off the initial costs and the life expectancy of the farms is about 25 years, said Smith. 

Regardless, he remains optimistic, as the success of these farms might lead to additional larger solar farms in the future that offset about 25% of their electrical demand. 

“Well, I think that Ocoee is striving to do things a little bit differently than everybody else, and this is one of the ways that we’re meeting that goal,” Smith said.

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Contact Gabby Baquero at gbaquero@orangeobserver.com.

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