A Melbourne-based company hopes to build one of the nation's largest solar electricity generating operations on thousands of Florida acres.
While National Solar Power Partners LLC has signed an agreement with Progress Energy, funding for the $1.6 billion project will include tax credits that polluting industries can buy to compensate for emissions.
The company proposes to build about 20 separate solar arrays. Each will be on 200 acres of leased or purchased land and will generate 20 megawatts of electricity.
"They prefer to have us in a distributed fashion so that we're spread out throughout their service area," CEO James Scrivener said.
Forty-year-old Scrivener is one of three founders of the 3-year-old Brevard company, all of whom graduated from Florida Tech.
Gadsden, Hardee, Osceola and Suwannee counties are being considered to host the project, which will employ 400 during construction and about 120 during operation. Some 4,000 acres will include 20 sites that generate an estimated 400 total megawatts of electricity, enough power for the needs of 32,000 homes. Scrivener said the first arrays could be working by the end of 2012.
Brevard did not have adequate sites for the project. However, the company could bring attention to Brevard as a center of solar energy innovation.
The sale of renewable energy certificates will generate 2 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour, in addition to approximately 5 cents per kilowatt hour for the sale of electricity.
"That allows us to be effectively competitive with fossil fuel energy generation," Scrivener said.
While the company has a business plan, James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, said solar power technology might not yet be profitable.
"It's a good plan," said Fenton, who fears that producing electricity from the sun could cost more than National Solar can earn from its sales of electricity and tax credits. "The devil's in the details," he said.
Progress Energy spokesman Tim Leljedal said state law requires his company to buy electric power from the clean energy producers, but Progress only has to pay National Solar what amounts to a wholesale price, which is now about 4 cents per kilowatt hour.
The solar panels, which will be most efficient during midday, won't help Progress Energy handle peak energy demand, which comes in the evening during the summer and early morning in the winter, Leljedal said.