OUC has announced plans to dramatically increase its utility-scale solar capacity with the addition of two 74.5-megawatt (MW) solar farms scheduled to open in 2023. The move will help OUC reach a goal of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 while phasing out coal as an energy source.

Through a 20-year, $222.1 million power purchase agreement (PPA) with NextEra Florida Renewables LLC, OUC will be the sole recipient of the two solar farms’ combined 149 MW of clean energy. Currently, OUC’s solar energy portfolio includes 108.5 MW generated by the Taylor Creek and Harmony Solar Energy Centers, which opened in July 2020, and 13 MW produced by photovoltaic (PV) arrays stationed at OUC’s Stanton Energy Center (SEC). Altogether, the combined 270.5 MW of solar capacity will provide enough power for nearly 50,000 typical Florida homes.

The new solar investment will have no rate impact on OUC electric customers.

To be built in Osceola County, NextEra’s Harmony II and Storey Bend sites will connect directly to OUC’s electric grid. The additional capacity will boost OUC to No. 3 among Florida utilities in solar watts per customer based on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s 2020 rankings. OUC’s solar energy portfolio also will increase to 10% of retail sales in 2025.

“We’re excited to take this major step to increase our solar capacity,” said Clint Bullock, OUC General Manager & CEO. “This agreement with NextEra affirms a commitment to reach our Net Zero CO2 goal by 2050, as well as interim targets of 50 percent CO2 emissions reduction by 2030 and 75 percent by 2040. It also reinforces our position as a solar leader.”

As part of the recently adopted Electric Integrated Resource Plan, OUC will convert SEC’s Unit 1 coal plant to natural gas by 2025 and Unit 2 by 2027 while developing a reliable renewable energy grid. The converted gas plants are expected to be closed by no later than 2040.

The solar project provides several distinct advantages, said Claston Sunanon, Director of Fuels & Power Marketing for OUC. “It works out to be less expensive than private rooftop solar, and we only pay for power generated by the solar farms; there are no upfront costs. The declining cost of solar also gives us a hedge against fuel-price volatility.”

The PPA with NextEra replaces a similar solar energy deal OUC announced in late 2019.

Posted Jan. 27, 2021