106-acre Big Bend Solar project completed in Tampa

Burns & McDonnell met substantial completion requirements on March 1 for commercial operation of the Big Bend Solar project in Tampa, Fla. The 106-acre solar photovoltaic (PV) project is owned and operated by Tampa Electric and is the largest single source of solar power in the Tampa area with capacity to serve 3,300 homes. Situated near the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, it was the first utility-scale solar project undertaken by Tampa Electric.

Big Bend solar plant

The plant produces 23 megawatts (MW) of DC capacity before connecting with the Tampa area power grid. It features over 202,000 thin-film PV panels installed in 1,772 rows supported by 14,000 direct-driven steel piles. The panels are outfitted with sensors and drive motors that enable them to track the movement of the sun, resulting in a more than 20 percent energy gain over fixed solar installations.

The Big Bend Solar Plant features inverters provided by SMA for conversion from DC to AC power and modules incorporating First Solar advanced thin film PV technology.

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“The Big Bend Solar Plant is significant in proving utility-scale PV is cost competitive with traditional generation for regulated utilities,” says Matt Brinkman, Burns & McDonnell Principal and national director of solar projects for the firm. “Solar costs have decreased dramatically.”

Tampa Electric, one of Florida’s largest investor-owned electric utilities, serves more than 730,000 customers in West Central Florida. Tampa Electric is a subsidiary of Emera Inc., a geographically diverse energy and services company headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

— Solar Builder magazine

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