City of Orlando one step closer to using solar energy

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, December 15, 2017, 10:33 PM EST

It’s an ambitious plan for the city of Orlando, and now they’re one step closer to it becoming reality.

The city purchased almost five megawatts of energy from OUC’s solar farm.

That facility, comprised of eight football fields of solar panels positioned high atop a mountain of coal ash, produces around 13 megawatts.

Soon all 17 city fire stations and City Hall will draw their energy from solar.

“We’ve made a pledge to go all clean energy in the city for city government by 2030," explained Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

“I think if we’re going to ask our business community and our residents to go solar and to go green, the city has to walk the walk.”

According to the city, the purchase saves more than 5 million pounds of coal from burn.

“They paid a little bit extra to go in and buy power, which will offset the estimated energy use of those buildings," said Tim Trudell, who works for OUC.

The utility acknowledged that despite improvements in technology and decrease in price, solar energy still costs a bit more than traditional energy sources. The average customer will subscribe to solar for a portion of their monthly energy bill, and most bills increase by about 4 percent.

But Trudell stressed that diversifying power sources, from coal, gas and solar, keeps costs down. And as Central Florida grows, the bigger picture is about investing in renewable energy.

“We have to use all of our assets right now to power a growing city," he said.

In August, OUC energized the massive solar farm, located at Stanton Energy Center along South Alafaya Trail, and connected it to the power grid.

But the utility company is already looking to the future, one which they see as bright.

“I think we’re going to see some really cool projects," said Trudell. “It’s really important we take steps to provide clean, renewable energy and we also have to do that in a way that’s cost effective.”

Trudell said the utility will be adding another 20 megawatts to the farm in 2018, floating solar panels on retention ponds, which cool power plants.

OUC first experimented with community solar power in 2013. It started operating floating panels in February at Gardenia.  

“If we’re going to get climate change under control, it’s going to be a local decision. Local leaders that are leading that charge," said Dyer.