OUC's newest solar farm doubles capacity, diversifies energy sources

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, July 14, 2017, 5:18 PM EDT

Orlando's utility company is nearing completion on a massive project, ready to energize the largest solar farm in Orange County.

  • OUC completing the largest solar farm in Orange County
  • Doubles OUC's current solar capacity
  • The field sits on top of a coal byproduct landfill

“Orlando is a cutting-edge, progressive community that’s taking advantage of the latest technologies, and they have a local municipal utility that’s not resting not their laurels," said Tim Trudell, with Orlando Utilities Commission.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on a large solar farm, stretching more than eight football fields, on top of a coal combustion byproduct landfill in east Orange County.

According to Trudell, the site is one of the most diverse fuel sites in the state. As trains deliver coal to two plants and natural gas flows, methane gas from Orange County's nearby landfill is piped in as well.

“We still have to rely on the other stuff, that’s very important," explained Trudell.

Five years ago, Orlando Utilities Commission unveiled a 6 megawatt solar field, located along Innovation Way.

The new farm doubles that, with enough energy to power nearly 2,200 homes, on average, throughout the year.

“Technology has gotten better, prices have come down, and it starts to make more sense for us," said Trudell.

In order to build the solar farm, the utility entered into a power purchase agreement, allowing a separate company to pay for infrastructure and repairs to the panels, then purchasing energy of them at a competitive rate. That energy is in turn sold back to customers.

While the 37,000-plus solar panels won't lower customers' bills, they do have purpose, according to Trudell: By diversifying energy sources, OUC is able to keep prices from going up.

“If you were all one fuel source and that particular source got more expensive, then customers would see that one their bills," he said.

And as Central Florida grows, OUC said the bigger picture revolves around investing in renewable energy.

“It’s good for the community, it’s good for the environment," Trudell said. “We have to meet the growth that comes into Orlando. We believe in sustainability. It’s very, very important.”

OUC is not done, either, they plan on adding another 30 more megawatts worth of solar energy next year. They are now discussing site plans. Trudell says it equals a 150 percent increase in solar power.

OUC customers who are also interested in going solar for their home or business can check out the company's solar programs on the OUC website.