Suwannee BOCC approves Duke solar plant 2017-04-18

Duke to build solar farm in Suwannee County instead of new natural gas turbines. How about more solar farms to help reduce fertilizer nitrogen runoff and solve the BMAP problem?

Parcel 25-01S-11E-1090700.0000
Parcel 25-01S-11E-1090700.0000, Suwannee County Property Appraiser.

Thomas Lynn, Suwannee Democrat, 23 April 2017, Suwannee County BOCC approves 62 acres worth of solar panels,

LIVE OAK — The county commissioners approved a special permit to allow Duke Energy to install 62 acres worth of solar panels that will provide electricity to 1,700 homes.

During a county commissioners meeting on Tuesday, the county held a public meeting to discuss a special permit request from Duke Energy. The facility will be unmanned and would produce little to no waste.

According to the agenda for the Suwannee BOCC 6PM 18 April 2017 meeting,

  1. At 6:15p.m., or as soon thereafter as the matter can be heard, hold a public hearing, to consider adoption of a resolution approving Special Permit Request No. SP-17-04-01 by Amy Dierolf agent for Duke Energy Florida, to be granted a special permit under Section 4.4.5 (b) (12) of the Suwannee County Development Regulations for Utilities and Related Facilities on property zoned Agriculture-1 (A-1). (Ronald Meeks, Planning & Zoning Director)

This is apparently the same Amy Dierolf, Lead Environmental Specialist for Duke Energy, who told the Suwannee BOCC 2 September 2014 that two proposed new natural gas turbines (plus buildings) would use “the existing gas at the facility” and she was “not aware of any details” of Sabal Trail supplying that facility. Duke did not build those new turbines, instead it bought Calpine’s Osprey power plant in Auburndale, Polk County, Florida (and of course Duke is building its Citrus County natural gas plant at the end of Sabal Trail’s Citrus County Pipeline)

The Suwannee County turbines may or may not have been intended to go on the same land Duke now plans to use for the solar farm. The board packet posted on the Suwannee BOCC website is for their April 3rd meeting, not their April 18th meeting: maybe the packet for the latter would clarify this question.

But Duke is certainly building this solar farm instead of building new natural gas turbines at its Suwannee County site.

The Duke PR back in January about this solar plant said 70 acres, so either they’ve trimmed it down or they’re just talking about the area actually to be occupied by the solar panels. The site shown by the Suwannee County Property Appraiser that seem to most closely match is the part of 25-01S-11E-1090700.0000 east of Duke’s entrance on River Road. It looks like that’s more than 62 acres, but subtract out the pipeline rights of way, and it probably matches.

According to that Duke PR, the solar farm will produce 8.8 gigamegawatts and the remaining turbines will produce 155 MW.

62 acres * (155MW/8.8MW)
– 62 acres)
= 1030 acres

A little arithmetic shows retiring those turbines would take about 1030 acres for more solar panels. That’s about a quarter of a percent of the land acreage of Suwannee County. Duke doesn’t own that much land in the county, but we just learned the previous meeting at the BMAP meeting that agriculture in Suwannee County needs to reduce nitrogen runoff from fertilizers by 80 to 90%. Hm, solar panels don’t use any fertilizer. Like Duke says, they “would produce little to no waste”.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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Update 2017-04-25: No, I’m not recommending cutting down trees for solar panels. Rooftop solar power and, as I mentioned, solar panels on marginal farmland, would make far more sense. As even Duke says, solar panels produce “little to no waste”, which means no fertilizer or pesticide runoff from them. Graze cows, sheep, or goats around them, and the farmer has income from both the solar panels and the livestock, while still needing no pesticides to control weeds. That’s what Sandy Hill Solar of Elm City, North Carolina does, and the utility buying their power is Duke Energy.

Duke PR

Duke Energy PR, 2017-01-11, also excerpted by the Suwannee Democrat, Duke Energy Florida to build solar power plant in Suwannee County,

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Duke Energy today announced the location of its newest universal solar power plant, which will provide cleaner, smarter energy solutions for Florida customers.

It will be built on 70 acres near Live Oak, Fla., just east of the existing Suwannee River Power Plant.
The new Suwannee Solar Facility will produce 8.8 megawatts (MW) of carbon-free energy, which is enough to power about 1,700 average homes at peak production. The company expects to break ground in the spring with full operation by the end of 2017.
The solar facility will be owned, operated and maintained by Duke Energy Florida.
In December 2016, the company retired three natural gas units at the Suwannee River Power Plant. Those units, built in the early 1950s, had the capacity to generate 129 MW of electricity. Three other 1980s-era natural gas units, capable of generating 155 MW, remain in operation as part of the system that supplies extra energy when demand from customers is the greatest, such as on a cold January morning or a hot August afternoon.
"We are committed to expanding clean energy in Florida," said Harry Sideris, Duke Energy state president – Florida. "Retiring older units like those at Suwannee River and building new solar power plants provides the greatest amount of renewable energy for customers, in the most economical way."
The Suwannee Solar Facility is the third in a long-range plan to bring more universal solar energy to Florida, which ensures residents have increasingly clean and diverse power sources.
Duke Energy Florida also owns and operates the Perry Solar Facility in Taylor County and the Osceola Solar Facility in Osceola County.
In addition to building universal solar in the Sunshine State, Duke Energy Florida is helping more than 120 residential and business customers per month interconnect private solar on their property.
The company established a renewables service center to make it easier for customers to interconnect. In the past five years, the number of customers who have interconnected private solar increased by 450 percent. Over the past eight years, Duke Energy has invested more than $4.5 billion in wind and solar projects in 13 states.
News editors
Construction and images of other Duke Energy solar projects are available upon request.
About Duke Energy Florida
Duke Energy Florida owns and operates a diverse generation mix, including renewables, providing about 9,000 MW of owned electric capacity to approximately 1.7 million customers in a 13,000-square-mile service area.
With its Florida regional headquarters located in St. Petersburg, Fla., Duke Energy is one of the largest electric power holding companies in the United States. It supplies and delivers electricity to approximately 7.4 million customers in the Southeast and Midwest, representing a population of approximately 24 million people. The company also distributes natural gas to more than 1.5 million customers in the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Its commercial business operates a growing renewable energy portfolio and transmission infrastructure across the United States.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is an S&P 100 Stock Index company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at

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 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!