KUA invests in major solar energy project

By Rachel Christian

Staff Writer

Kissimmee Utility Authority and 11 other municipal electric companies announced plans Friday for a massive solar power project projected to generate energy for roughly 44,600 residential customers by 2020.

The energy will come from three new solar farms spanning a combined 900,000 solar panels in Orange and Osceola counties.

The Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) oversees the initiative, known as the Florida Municipal Solar Project.

KUA Vice President of Corporate Communications Chris Gent said the utility company has been exploring solar energy options for years. Until recently though, the cost proved too prohibitive for the city-run utility company.

“The price for solar generation has finally come down to the cost of traditional power,” Gent said. “This has been made possible through the extension of federal tax incentives for solar companies.”

The project’s scope includes the installation of about 900,000 solar panels across three solar farms in Orange and Osceola County.

Panels will be installed on a racking system that uses computer-controlled motors to move panels in the direction of sunlight for maximum efficiency.

A group called NextEra Florida Renewables will own and run the plants, selling the power to the cities at locked-in rates.

The three solar farms would produce 223.5 megawatts of energy for roughly 44,600 residential customers.

Permitting is expected to take about 18 months, with construction set to begin in early 2020. The project should be operational by June 30, 2020, Gent said.

KUA and the other utility companies won’t have to pay for the construction of the solar farms.

Nearby Orlando Utilities Commission is expected to purchase about half of the three plants’ output, or 108.5 megawatts, for about $200 million.

Winter Park will buy 10 megawatts, or a third of what Kissimmee is purchasing.

Gent did not state how much KUA is spending on its 30-megawatts of solar power.

Project details were announced at the University of Central Florida’s Solar Energy Center in Cocoa Friday.

For more information on the Florida Municipal

Solar Project, visit www.fmpa.com.