Massive solar project could move forward under bill

A proposed committee bill by the House Energy & Utiltiies Committee would remove a barrier to the Babcock Ranch development in southwest Florida becoming the first solar city in the United States, a development spokeswoman said.

PCB EUP6 allows utilities to petition the Public Service Commission for the recovery of costs for up to 735 megawatts of renewable energy through 2013. That’s enough power for about 750,000 homes. Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando and committee chairman, described the bill as a “work in progress.”

Last year, the Public Service Commission recommended to the Legislature that the state require utilities to receive at least 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources. But the House refused to consider a Senate bill that would have imposed a renewable energy requirement.

If the Senate bill had been adopted, Babcock Ranch could have moved forward with an initial 75-megawatt solar array through a partnership with Florida Power & Light Co., said Lisa Hall, a spokeswoman for Kitson & Partners, the Babcock Ranch developers. But instead, the project has been stalled for a year because state law now requires utilities to pursue the cheapest power alternative, Hall said.

The proposed committee bill, she said, would change that by allowing utilities to recover from ratepayers the cost of solar or other renewable energy. “What we are looking for is policy that will enable people who are poised to make this investment move forward,” Hall said.

(Artist rendering provided by Kitson & Partners. Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)