Solar power on the rise in Florida cities, FMPA says

Solar power in the Sunshine State was on the rise last year thanks to a group of municipal electric utilities and their customers.

The 14 municipal utilities that own the Florida Municipal Power Agency’s All-Requirements Project increased their solar generating capacity by nearly 30% in 2011, FMPA said. The new solar generation includes innovative grant-funded demonstration projects, as well as customer-owned installations.

“Partnerships with local customers and federal grant programs have given FMPA’s members unique opportunities to expand our renewable generation in a cost-effective way,” said FMPA General Manager and CEO Nicholas Guarriello.

Solar panels overlook the waterfront on Stock Island in the Florida Keys in March. Keys Energy Services now manages two solar installations and a wind demonstration project. Photo courtesy of Keys Energy Services.

Four of FMPA’s all-requirements member cities received federal grants to develop renewable energy demonstration projects. The renewable generators serve municipal facilities and provide an educational component to inform the local community about renewable power.

Three cities, Green Cove Springs, Newberry and Starke, installed solar photovoltaic generation in 2011. Keys Energy Services, the municipal utility serving Key West and the lower Florida Keys, installed two wind turbines in February 2012 and installed a solar photovoltaic generator in March 2012.

Partnering with local homeowners and businesses is also an important part of what FMPA members do to promote renewable energy. FMPA’s all-requirements members do this by offering a program called net metering.

Net metering is a service option that permits customer-owned renewable generation to be interconnected with the utility’s distribution system and used to offset part or all of a customer’s electric usage. Customers are paid through their monthly bills for any excess generation their system delivers into the utility’s distribution system.

The number of customers participating in this program in FMPA’s all-requirements cities increased by more than 20% in 2011. More than 100 customers in 11 cities participate in the All-Requirements Project’s net metering program, with a total of 705 kW of installed capacity, FMPA said.

The FMPA All-Requirements cities that offer net metering are: Bushnell, Clewiston, Fort Meade, Fort Pierce, Green Cove Springs, Havana, Jacksonville Beach, Key West, Kissimmee, Lake Worth, Leesburg, Newberry, Ocala and Starke. —JEANNINE ANDERSON

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