Floridians voting on Amendment 1 as TECO expands use of solar technology

200,000 panels being installed in Apollo Beach
Posted at 5:17 PM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-03 17:17:34-04

As Floridians consider adding an Amendment to Florida’s Constitution protecting the rights of individuals to have solar panels installed on their home, the Mayor of St. Pete, Rick Kriseman, joins the national leaders of Sierra Club and Solar Energy Industries Association to speak out against the ballot measure.

"This is an intentionally deceptive misleading amendment funded by Florida's big utilities that deceives voters and is a step backwards for solar energy in the state," Alex Hobson, the Sr. Communications Manager for the Solar Energy Industries Association said ahead of the rally scheduled for Noon on the front steps of the St. Pete City Hall.

On Thursday, the interim president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) will tour Florida, trying to convince voters why they should not vote for Amendment 1. Their stops include Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, and Jacksonville.

Supporters of Amendment 1, including the utility companies, claim they only want to protect consumers.

Pinellas County Urban League President and CEO, Watson Haynes II, explained why people should vote in favor of Amendment 1. 

"We want to safeguard those people who need solar. And if they need solar, to have those panels properly installed," Haynes said.

Consumers for Smart Solar, a Political Action Committee largely funded by Florida utility companies, also defend Amendment 1.

In a statement sent to ABC Action News via email, Sarah Bascom who is the spokesperson for Consumers for Smart Solar said, "This is just political grandstanding at its best to deter Florida voters from voting in favor of Amendment 1, which simply safeguards consumer rights, consumer protection and consumer fairness as we grow solar in Florida.”

While Floridians consider this ballot measure, local utility companies are already expanding large-scale solar panel projects to power Tampa Bay Area homes.

The Tampa Electric Company (TECO) is making progress on the Tampa Bay Area’s largest solar energy “array" right now.

The new project, set to be completed in early 2017, will include more than 200,000 thin-film solar panels on over 100 acres of company-owned land at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach.

It will be TECO’s largest array, once completed, and have the capacity to power nearly 3,300 homes. The site is located east of Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center (MVC) and the Florida Conservation and Technology Center, which is currently in development, according to a TECO spokesperson.

“This investment in large-scale solar using the latest technology further demonstrates our commitment to clean energy,” said Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric. “We’re also taking advantage of declining solar prices and the land we own at Big Bend to make this project more cost-competitive – so we can continue to deliver affordable and reliable energy to our 730,000 customers.”

This is actually the third large-scale solar project by TECO. One is at Tampa International Airport, and the other is going to be at the LEGOLAND Florida Resort.