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Huge solar power farm announced for Fla. Panhandle

Mon, 09/26/2011 - 10:13am
The Associated Press

What would be the Southeast's largest solar power farm, generating enough electricity for 32,000 homes, will be built in the Florida Panhandle, a Melbourne-based company announced Monday.

National Solar Power plans to construct the $1.5 billion, 400-megawatt solar array in Gadsden County, just west of Tallahassee.

The project is expected to provide jobs for 400 construction workers over five years and up to 120 permanent employees with an average salary of $40,000.

National Solar has an agreement to provide electricity to Progress Energy Florida, which serves parts of central and north Florida.

The company also is in discussion with other potential customers.

"It's only fitting that America's 'Sunshine State' shines brightest in attracting this significant economic engine to make its home here," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

National Solar selected the 4,000-acre Gadsden site from among several areas it considered in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.

Company CEO James Scrivener said Gadsden was chosen for several reasons, including "its great year-round climate, strong community leadership, incredibly inviting regional support and the strong potential for future economic growth."

The sites that were passed over, though, may yet be selected for future projects, Scrivener said. The company remains in discussion with those communities and plans to announce another solar project in Hardee County southeast of Tampa.

Scrivener credited Scott and the state's economic development team as well as the Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce and Tallahassee Community College with helping persuade National Solar to pick to the Gadsden site.

He also announced a partnership with the college to create a solar energy education and training center at its Gadsden branch campus. That facility will feature a two-megawatt scale solar farm.

State Rep. Alan Williams, a Tallahassee Democrat whose district includes parts of Gadsden, said he was thrilled with the project but that Florida needs to do even more to promote alternative energy.

"I continue to believe that in the face of our state's energy dependency and economic challenges, it is imperative that Florida create energy policies as a key element to developing available domestic resources to meet our energy goals," Williams said in a statement.

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