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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

Huge Lake Wales Solar Farm Advancing Toward Completion

Farm Covers 600 Acres, Includes nearly 200,000 Panels

 

Last updated 7/11/2023 at 12:25pm

Robert Connors

In a view that stretches to the horizon, ground has been prepared for the installation of more than 170,000 solar panels at a site on the north side of Lake Wales. The huge TECO Energy project covers some 600 acres.

A 600-acre solar farm on the north side of Lake Wales containing some 170,000 to 200,000 solar panels has passed the 50% completion mark and is expected to come online before the end of the year.

According to a press release issued by Tampa Electric Media Spokesperson Cherie Jacobs at the time of the application, the project will generate 74.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 11,500 homes. Jacobs noted that the project will produce no emissions and generate virtually no traffic. TECO also touts the fact that solar energy uses no water to operate. Their solar installations thus far have saved more than two billion gallons of the precious and dwindling resource. Cooling traditional generators uses enormous amounts of water.

The project contains multiple parcels stretching from just north of Dinner Lake to beyond Waverly Road into Dundee, and spans the Scenic Highway corridor. Project owner TECO Energy made some minor adjustments to the vegetated buffers around the project intended to block it from view. It required zoning approval from Lake Wales, Polk County, and Dundee.

The facility will create a buffer between Lake Wales and Dundee, and is expected to generate significant tax revenue for both municipalities. Once the project is completed, sheep will be brought in to graze beneath the panels to avoid mowing duties.

Robert Connors

Stacks of solar panels manufactured by US company First Solar have been placed on the ground alongside the hundreds of thousands of mounting brackets that will soon expose them to the sun.

Construction has been underway for months, and includes the addition of an electrical substation in the Waverly community. So far a vast amount of wiring has been installed, along with the vertical mounts that will hold the panels.

The solar panels being used in the local project are manufactured by First Solar (FSLR), a US company that uses a thin-film photovoltaic process rather than the more common crystalline silicon panels.

The entire project will take about a year. Some 200 to 300 workers will be employed on different phases of the project, according to Jacobs. TECO plans to reach production of more than 1,300 megawatts of solar power, enough to power more than 200,000 homes, by the end of 2023.

Sustainable solar energy is a natural for Florida, which does not offer the steady winds suitable for wind generators, common in the American heartland. Renewable clean energy will be required to replace aging and polluting coal and gas fired generators.

 

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