Newberry to benefit from solar project expansion 

Field of solar panels
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The city of Newberry announced Wednesday that it will participate in a large-scale expansion of the Florida Municipal Solar Project, an effort of Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA), 19 other Florida municipal electric utilities and Orgis Energy. 

“By partnering with our municipal electric utility members and Origis Energy, we are able to take advantage of a great opportunity to increase the volume of our low-cost, reliable solar generation at a time when solar costs have been escalating,” said Jacob Williams, general manager and CEO of FMPA, in a press release. “Expanding the Florida Municipal Solar Project will also enable us to serve several new communities that haven’t had access to solar before.” 

The Florida Municipal Solar Project, one of the largest municipal-backed solar projects in the United States, has planned a two-phase expansion. It is currently made up of two solar farms in Orange County and Osceola County, which generate almost 150 megawatts (MW) of solar power. In this first phase, the project can power about 30,000 homes, a projection expected to quadruple with the new expansion.  

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Phase two will bring two new solar farms to the project. Developers expect to complete Rice Creek Solar in Putnam County by the end of this year, and Whistling Duck Solar in Levy County should be done in 2024. Together, the new sites will add another 150 MW of solar power to the project. 

Phase three will add four more solar farms in Columbia, Levy and Bradford Counties between 2025 and 2026. This phase will double the current project size and generate almost 600 MW of solar energy, enough to power about 120,000 Florida homes with over 1.8 million panels. 

Newberry, one of 20 Florida municipalities to purchase energy from the project, plans to use power from this project to cover about 10% of its power needs. 

“Participating in this large-scale project allows us to provide solar energy to our customers in the most cost-effective way,” Jamie Jones, Newberry’s assistant city manager for public works and utilities, said in a press release. “The project’s solar power cost is approximately one-third the cost of the typical private, rooftop solar system. We are proud to offer our customers alternative energy options at a lower rate.” 

FMPA has committed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 50% from 2005 to 2027, while keeping power costs below $70 per megawatt hour, according to its website

For this project, FMPA has partnered with Orgis Energy, which has completed more than 170 projects worldwide, developing over five gigawatts of solar, energy storage and clean hydrogen capacity. Orgis’s mission is to provide clean, cost-effective solar energy to commercial, industrial, public sector and utility consumers. 

“What is unique about working with FMPA is the opportunity to work with a large group of cities across Florida that all have a passion to bring clean energy solutions to their communities, to their homes, while not sacrificing reliability or cost,” Tanya Sessions, Orgis Energy’s vice president of business development, said in a press release. 

Other Alachua County projects have included the recent opening of the High Springs Renewable Energy Center, the Gainesville City Commission voting to bring 74.9 MW of solar starting in 2025 and the Alachua City Commission approving a new solar power purchase with NovaSol.  

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