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State Approves Gulf Power Solar Project

Gulf Power

Gulf Power Company is moving ahead with plans to build solar energy farms at three military bases in northwest Florida. The green light was provided this week by the state’s Public Service Commission.

The PSC gave unanimous approval to all three projects, aboard Naval Air Stations Pensacola and Whiting Field, and at Eglin Air Force Base. Natalie Smith at the utility says the approval process was somewhat lengthy.

“It takes months,” said Gulf Power spokeswoman Natalie Smith. “Our renewables team has worked on the project for several months to get everything in order and make sure we have our ducks in a row before they present it to the FPSC for their staff to go through it. And they make recommendations to the commissioners, and then they make their decision.”

The solar energy farm at NAS Pensacola will generate 50 megawatts of electricity; 40 megawatts will be produced at Whiting Field, with 30 megawatts coming from Eglin. That’s enough power to run about 18,000 homes for one year. The system will be maintained by Gulf Power and HelioSage personnel.

This is Gulf Power’s latest renewable energy project.

“Our very first…was the Perdido Landfill gas-to-energy facility that actually opened in 2010,” Smith said. “That produces enough methane to generate 3.2 megawatts of energy. And with these three solar facilities, that will bring us up to four renewable energy sources.”

As an intermittent energy resource, the solar farms will not make obsolete the current Gulf Power plants – including the Crist Steam Plant in Pensacola. Smith says instead, they would augment them.

Meanwhile, the utility is awaiting word from the Public Service Commission on a request to import wind power from Oklahoma. “Project Kingfisher” would be the company’s fifth renewable energy project. It involves 89 wind turbines and could supply 180 megawatts: enough to power about 50,000 homes per year.

Kingfisher Wind would represent roughly 5% of Gulf Power’s projected energy mix.  With approval from the PSC, Kingfisher Wind be up and running by the end of this year.