Tampa Electric is seeking to develop a new solar farm on a 37-acre parcel northeast of Lake Mabel in the rapidly-developing former agricultural lands as Lake Wales and Dundee aggressively annex land in the Scenic Highway corridor.
If the project proceeds it would augment the 236 megawatts of solar TECO already is operating in Polk and to other projects that have been approved, but are not completed yet.
These projects provide enough green energy to supply tens of thousands of homes.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of homes and businesses have installed their own solar panels to reduce their carbon footprints and to take advantage of the potential return on investment that comes with the ability under current state law to sell excess power they generate to local electric utilities.
But there may be a catch.
That is because of proposed legislation being considered by the Florida Legislature this year at the behest of Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility.
The bill’s intent seems to be the same as a constitutional amendment the utilities tried to sneak past voters in 2016.
Under the proposed legislation, the Florida Public Service Commission, which is the panel that rules on rate increase requests, would be directed to consider changes in the rates utilities would be required to pay rooftop solar users
There is a concern that PSC could side with utilities, who make a disputed claim that the current rates subsidize customers with rooftop solar at the expense of other customers. That could result in lower rates for rooftop owners, which could increase the time it takes to get a return on their investment for solar panel insallations. That, opponents of the legislation argue, could discourage people from installing their own solar panels and cripple the growing solar industry in Florida.