Florida A&M University approves a 25-year lease with Duke Energy for huge solar power plant

FAMU-Duke Parntnership Robinson

The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Board of Trustees approved a partnership with Duke Energy Florida (DEF) to build a solar facility in Central Florida that will benefit students, faculty, utility customers and Floridians. The Board approved a 25-year lease agreement with DEF. The partnership will provide a new, long-term revenue source at FAMU’s Brooksville Agricultural and Environmental Research Station (BAERS) for the University along with training and educational opportunities for students and members of the local community.

Duke Energy’s Rattler Solar Power Plant could add 74.9 megawatts of clean, renewable power to the grid at BAERS and help further the development and research of solar technologies, plant operations and workforce expansion.

“FAMU strives to be a good neighbor at all times, and like residents of Brooksville and Hernando County, we are concerned about the sustainability of the planet,” said Fred Gainous, Ed.D., who leads the FAMU Brooksville project. “This initiative allows us to use the natural energy source of the sun to power homes, instead of using resources that can be depleted.”

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The solar facility would occupy between 600 and 800 acres of property and feature approximately 270,000 tracking solar panels that will follow the sun’s movement throughout the day, maximizing energy production for customers.

“Making this land available to Duke Energy allows FAMU to accomplish two central objectives: generating revenue for student education and offering the county an alternative source of clean energy,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “We look forward to a long and healthy partnership with Duke Energy.”

Once operational, the facility can provide electricity for approximately 23,000 average-sized homes at peak production. All the electricity created from the project will be fed onto the DEF electric grid and delivered to homes, businesses, schools, places of worship and other customers in the area.

The partnership would bring financial and academic benefits to FAMU with a new revenue source by means of lease-payments and through the creation of hands-on experiences for students researching and working with a fully-operational, utility-scale solar power plant connected to the grid.

“Duke Energy is pleased with the Board of Trustees’ decision,” said Tamara Waldmann, Duke Energy Florida Director of Distributed Generation Strategy. She added, “This specific vote will allow Duke Energy to perform a critical next step, which is the evaluation of the FAMU property to determine if the conditions are indeed suitable for solar energy. Meanwhile, Duke Energy is engaging with Hernando County, and we will be engaging community leaders and residents in the coming weeks.”

This investment would also allow DEF the ability to continue exploring innovative, clean energy opportunities with various community partners and expand cost effective, flexible, and dependable utility owned solar for the benefit of all our customers.

Waldmann said the Brooksville solar power plant is part of Duke Energy’s strategic, long-range plan to build or acquire 700 megawatts of solar energy in Florida through 2022.
“Equally important, it supports FAMU and their commitment to renewables, agriculture and sustainability. Building solar power plants in support of our customers and communities is part of our ongoing work to diversify our Company’s resources to offer dependable, emission-free, and smarter energy solutions that our customers value,” said Waldmann.

The agreement will include a due diligence period for site investigation and permitting prior to building a solar project at BAERS.

— Solar Builder magazine

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