Largest Solar Farm in Southeast to be Built in Gadsden County

By: Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida; Eyewitness News; Ron Sachs Communications; Whitney Ray Email
By: Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida; Eyewitness News; Ron Sachs Communications; Whitney Ray Email
“The people of Gadsden County are excited about the opportunity to help build the Southeast’s largest solar farm,” said Gadsden County Commissioner Sherrie Taylor.  “There is no better place for National Solar Power to invest their dollars and resources and we look forward to working with them as the project takes shape.”

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, September 27, 2011 -

Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

A Melbourne firm announced Monday it will build a major solar-energy project in Gadsden County, promising to dot undeveloped areas with 20 solar "farms."

National Solar Power, which plans to eventually generate 400 megawatts of electricity at the sites, chose Gadsden over Hardee, Osceola and Suwannee counties. Also, it earlier considered building in Georgia and North Carolina.

The company plans to sell the power to Progress Energy Florida and possibly other utilities. Chief Executive Officer James Scrivener said the project will create 400 jobs during construction and another 120 permanent jobs after the facilities are built.

"Wow,'' David Gardner, executive director of the Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce, said during an announcement outside the Old Capitol. "We are humbled and honored beyond belief today.''

The company touts the project as the largest in the Southeast and says it has a price tag of about $1.5 billion. The concept is to build 20 solar farms on 200-acre sites across the largely rural North Florida county, with each farm producing 20 megawatts of energy.

But the project will take years to fully develop, with National Solar Power hoping to break ground on the first site during the first three months of 2012. It is negotiating to buy and lease land, needs environmental permits and must nail down financing.

Scrivener said the company likely will announce another project in Hardee County and ultimately hopes to build in other areas of the state. Gadsden County political leaders and state lawmakers joined company officials for Monday's announcement, which came under a baking sun.

"This is what you call smart growth and development,'' Gadsden County Commission Chairwoman Sherrie Taylor said.

Scrivener said the project will be privately financed but that the company could seek state help with issues such as permitting and property taxes. He said officials met with Gov. Rick Scott, who indicated he would help speed up a Department of Environmental Protection permitting process.

When the solar farms start operating, Scrivener said they should not increase costs for utility ratepayers. He said National Solar's prices will be based on what it would otherwise cost a utility to generate power with fuels such as natural gas.

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Solar Farm Coming to Sunshine State
by Whitney Ray

The sun was in full force on the capitol lawn Monday as lawmakers and entrepreneurs put on their shades and announced a bright future for solar power in Florida.

National Solar, a Melbourne company, is building a 400 acre solar farm 25 miles west of the state capital. The plan is to put solar panels on 20, 20 acre plots of land and once that’s completed collectively they’ll be the biggest solar farm in the Southeast.

Construction on the project will begin early next year. It’s expected to create 400 jobs. National Solar CEO James Scrivener says there is a dire need for renewables.

“When it’s hottest, when the sun is shining the most, we are producing the most power, it’s also when every one’s air-conditioning is working the hardest,” said Scrivener.

The announcement comes, as a California solar company boosted by half a billion dollars in government subsidies closes. The California company failed because it was trying to develop new solar technology. The Florida farm will use existing methods.

“We are not investing in technology. To us the technology is effectively a black box. We’re focused on the business model and the economics associated with these projects,” said Scrivener.

So far there is no government money behind the Florida project. In an effort to keep the project in Florida Governor Rick Scott promised to speed up the permitting process for the new farm. The company will make money by selling the energy it captures to utility companies. So far it’s secured a contract with Progress Energy.

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[UPDATE] Tallahassee, Florida - September 26, 2011 -11:30am –

National Solar Power today announced the company will build the Southeast’s largest solar farm in Gadsden County, Florida – generating hundreds of new jobs and pouring $1.5 billion in economic investment into the region.

“Gadsden County was chosen for this significant project for many reasons, including its great year-round climate, strong community leadership, incredibly inviting regional support and the strong potential for future economic growth,” said James Scrivener, CEO of National Solar Power.

Along with the large solar farm planned for Gadsden County, Scrivener added that the other geographic areas the company considered in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina as possible home of the solar farm project have excellent sites and will be considered for future expansion of solar farms. The company continues to have talks with representatives in those communities. However, discussions are most advanced in Hardee County, Florida. In the near future, plans include making an announcement about establishing a meaningful solar project in Hardee County.

In the end, Gadsden County won the nod for the large 400 MW farm because of the overall positives it demonstrated. Scrivener praised Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Gardner for his “tireless work” to promote the county; Dr. Jim Murdaugh, president of Tallahassee Community College, for leadership that tipped the decision to Gadsden; and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who strongly encouraged the company to invest its resources for this historic project in Florida.

“Governor Scott and his team played an instrumental role in securing this project for Florida and persuaded us that the Sunshine State deserved to win the right to host our exciting solar project – and it’s a real bonus that this is our home state, too,” said Scrivener.

In a statement, Governor Scott welcomed the project to Florida.

“It’s great to see innovative companies like National Solar Power choose to make their headquarters in Florida,” said Governor Scott. “It’s only fitting that America’s ‘Sunshine State’ shines brightest in attracting this significant economic engine to make its home here.”

Once the appropriate local and state permitting process is completed, the first phase of the project is expected to be up and running within six months of breaking ground. Hensel Phelps Construction Co., a world leader in construction that rebuilt the Pentagon after the 9-11 attacks in 2001, will design, build and operate the solar farms for National Solar Power.

National Solar Power estimates the project will create 400 jobs during the five-year construction phase and up to 120 permanent operations jobs. National Solar Power expects each farm segment will have a three-person maintenance crew, an engineer and security personnel and estimates the permanent operations jobs will have an average salary of about $40,000 per year.

A minimum of 20 farms will be built on 200-acre sites at a cost of $70 million each – injecting hundreds of millions of dollars in the North Florida community.

According to National Solar Power, Gadsden County vaulted into first place as its community partner for the new solar farm location and has very strong attributes including:

• Having ideal available sites with adequate supply of undeveloped land that can properly meet infrastructure needs related to the establishment of the solar facility;
• Receiving appropriate business, government and community support including strong regional support;
• Access to a qualified work force; and
• Opportunity to enter into positive partnerships with a strong higher-education sector – Tallahassee Community College, Florida State University and Florida A&M University.

“With Gadsden County and the surrounding region, we know that we will have access to a qualified work force – for construction and operation,” Scrivener said. “We are very excited to be near a great team of education resources in Tallahassee Community College, Florida State University and Florida A&M University and look forward to working with those fine higher education institutions to make this project a success.”

During a news conference to announce the Gadsden County Solar Farm project, Scrivener outlined a partnership National Solar Power is establishing with Tallahassee Community College to create a solar energy educational and training center at TCC’s Gadsden County campus – featuring a 2 MW utility scale solar farm. In fact, that anchoring element of the project and Dr. Murdaugh’s leadership on behalf of the ‘Big Bend’ region were integral in National Solar Power’s decision to choose Gadsden County for the massive project.

“National Solar Power is making a strong commitment to education in our area – not only with the establishment of the solar farm on our campus but also with the jobs that will be created in Gadsden County and the economic development benefits that will flow to help Gadsden County’s schools, students and residents,” said Tallahassee Community College President, Dr. Jim Murdaugh. “It is projected that by 2060, solar energy will meet half of all the world’s energy needs. When you realize that, it makes sense to partner with National Solar Power to provide our students with the kind of education and training that will be available at the TCC-Gadsden Solar Farm.”

By converting the natural power of the sun into electricity, National Solar Power’s planned 400-megawatt farm will be capable of providing enough renewable energy to power roughly 32,000 homes.

National Solar Power is negotiating with multiple large financial institutions and private equity investors to provide project financing. The company has entered into an agreement with Progress Energy Florida and is having discussions with other potential customers to purchase power generated by the Gadsden County solar farm project. In total, National Solar Power expects to use 4,000 acres of property across the region for the 400-megawatt solar farm project.

Along with the agreement with Progress Energy Florida, National Solar Power has executed power supply agreements for more than 3,000 Megawatts of Solar Farms in the Southeastern United States. National Solar Power anticipates much of the power produced by the solar farm project will be used for peak shaving -- particularly energy production that will occur during the summer months.
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State Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) released the following statement today on the announcement of plans to build the Southeast’s largest solar panel project in Gadsden County.

“I am thrilled that National Solar Power has selected Gadsden County for the development of the Southeast’s largest solar farm energy project. I congratulate Gadsden County on efforts to create jobs and invest in energy infrastructure. The solar farm project is the right direction for the state to partner with the private sector to add affordable, safe, energy resources to the portfolio of solutions for Florida’s growing energy needs.

“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.

“I am confident that the energy future we are striving to create for Florida and the nation will include solar power from Gadsden County.”

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Tallahassee, Florida - September 26, 2011 -

The largest solar farm in the Southeast will be built in Gadsden County.

After months of research, review, site visits and ongoing talks with leaders across Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and elsewhere, National Solar Power announces the site of the Southeast’s largest solar farm the company is establishing in Gadsden County.

Four communities in Florida (Gadsden, Hardee, Osceola and Suwannee counties) were in the running to become the site of the 400 MW solar farm project. After an exhaustive site selection process, National Solar Power has selected Gadsden County.

National Solar Power is a Melbourne, Florida-based renewable energy company uniquely positioned within the marketplace to offer cost effective solar power solutions on the utility scale.


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