Gainesville Fla perhaps, most notable for being the home of the University of Florida, has always been a place of forward thinking in an oft more backward thinking North Florida.
The utility in Gainesville chose to try a German style feed-in tariff system to spur the use of alternative energy specifically solar photovoltaics.
Here's wikipedia on Solar feed-in tariffs
Here's a good article from the Gainesville Sun newspaper on an expansion of the program
Gainesville borrowed the solar feed-in tariff concept from Germany. Now a German subsidiary based in Lakeland is building the largest privately owned solar array in the state through the program, covering 7 acres on vacant land near the confluence of Northwest 13th and Sixth streets.
When complete, 8,600 photovoltaic panels will supply 2 megawatts of power — enough to power 200 to 300 homes.
Through the solar feed-in tariff program, Gainesville Regional Utilities will pay Sybac Solar LLC 26 cents per kilowatt hour generated to feed into the power grid.
Sybac's project comes two months after Los Angeles-based Green Energy Development built the largest solar rooftop array in the southeastern U.S., a 1.6-megawatt project covering the Butler Plaza central plaza that includes Best Buy.
Sybac Germany, the parent company, built metal parts for facades before going into the solar business to take advantage of Germany's feed-in tariff, according to Markus Falz, project manager in Gainesville who hails from Germany.
Artur Madej, a computer software engineer who was born in Poland, grew up in England and came to the U.S. from the Netherlands 12 years ago, opened the U.S. subsidiary in Lakeland last year, providing solar power to several homes and businesses in Florida.
GRU's guaranteed rate made Gainesville “a very attractive market for us,” he said. The company had been looking into the FIT program for about a year when it bought the property and allocation rights on Northwest Sixth Street south of 84 Lumber from Naveen Khurana and family of Alachua.
Madej told the Lakeland Ledger the project will cost $8 million to construct.
Sybac is in talks to do a couple more similar deals in Gainesville.
The company also plans to build an education center in front of the solar field along Sixth Street to show potential customers, investors and anyone interested in solar photovoltaic power how it functions. They are looking for providers of solar panels and direct current wiring to partner on the center, Falz said.
Sybac is nearing completion on steel tables that angle the solar panels, but a shortage of solar panels will delay the project until mid-January for an expected mid-February completion, Falz said.
To construct the steel tables, Sybac hired 10 to 12 local people, most out-of-work construction workers, he said, and will be looking to hire more to install the panels.
Sybac also hired local firms for site preparation, surveying and fencing, and worked with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce to find local lawyers, CPAs and security firms.
David Ramsey, of the Chamber and Council for Economic Outreach, said city permitting and GRU also provided “some priority assistance” so the project would be under way in time to qualify for GRU's 2010 rates.
“It fits right in line with the type of industry and the type of energy we want to recruit to this community,” Ramsey said. “They brought a lot of legitimacy to this type of investment.”
Madej said the project also will qualify for this year's 30 percent federal tax credit.
GRU's feed-in tariff currently has 61 projects providing 3.2 megawatts of power. GRU pays for the power generated through a ratepayer subsidy of more than 25 cents per monthly bill.
In October, the utility opened up another 400 kilowatts in the program made available when previous applicants dropped out, drawing 49 applicants, including 46 projects on single-family homes, according to Rachel Meek, solar project manager.
Another round open Jan. 18-21 will take projects up to 300 kilowatts each for 2.6 megawatts total, including 200 kilowatts set aside for single-family homes.
Contact Anthony Clark at 374-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Feed-in Tariff program can be a hard sell in the USA since many feel it is too socialistic but early adoption of alternative energy is important to bring the price down for future projects. As Gainesville continues to show positive returns from this program Conservastore hopes that other Florida communities will see the benefit and roll out similar programs
Conservastore.com is here