Regulators give TECO the green light for solar

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - The Public Service Commission overturned a staff recommendation and voted 4-1 to allow Tampa Electric to enter an agreement to purchase solar power from a West Palm Beach-based company and charge customers premium prices for it.

Energy 5.0 will build the 25 megawatt plant next year and sell its electricity to TECO for a fixed price over the 25-years. The PSC allowed TECO to charge its customers an estimated 52 cents a month beginning in 2011 to pay for the solar power, estimated at $44 million over 25 years.

The cost to customers would drop to 19 cents a month in 2035, and could drop more if state and federal governments establish renewable energy credits that utility companies can receive.

The $130 million solar photovoltaic electric plant, called Florida Solar I, will provide enough power to serve 3,400 homes in TECO's service area at an undisclosed cost per kilowatt hour over the life of the project. The company argues that it will be slightly less expensive to operate than Florida Power & Light's new DeSoto County solar plant, the nation's largest project of its kind which opened in October.

Commissioner Nathan Skop was the only commissioner to vote against the decision because he thought the negotiated contract price was overpaid. He argued: “I feel the ratepayers are overpaying. It's not because I do not support renewables,'' he said.

The staff had urged the commission accept the application but not allow customers to be charged the full cost of the solar-powered electricity, only the portion of it. TECO said that would kill the project.


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