Is Florida competing with California for most large-scale solar?

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Is Florida competing with California for most large-scale solar?National Solar Power announced its second utility-scale solar farm in Florida on Nov. 30. The company will develop a 200-megawatt solar farm in Hardee County, Fla. It’s the first state outside of the U.S. southwest to see development of a solar project over 100 megawatts in size. And it means that Florida, the Sunshine State, is starting to compete with California.

It’s also the second such plant the company is developing in the state. The company was looking for different sites, and decided Gadsden was the best first site, and then they went to work on Hardee County. The Gadsden County solar project is even bigger at 400 megawatts.

Since the U.S. southeast doesn’t have the same open space that the U.S. southwest has, the projects have to be developed in a different manner. So instead of the solar farms covering thousands of acres, they’re separated up into individual fields. For instance, the Hardee County project consists of 10, 200-acre farms. Each farm will cost around $70 million.

When National Solar Power launched last year, it said it was looking to develop solar projects in a number of states. In addition to Florida, it’s also looking at developing projects in North Carolina and Georgia.

“They saw lots of interesting opportunities in North Carolina and Georgia and those are still in play. There are still opportunities there, but currently the company has brought its focus to Florida,” said Ryan Banfull, a spokesperson for National Solar Power. “The North Carolina opportunity is very attractive. It’s a great market for renewable energy; it has some very attractive possibilities in place.”

The company’s already in the process of moving forward in Gadsden.

“They’ve been in the process of permitting, environmental planning, doing due diligence and working with local governments on the local tax issues,” Banfill said. “Once you get through your permitting, you’re looking at about six months or so to get the dirt turned.”

The site will likely start producing some generation by the end of 2012, he said.

National Solar Power has already signed power-purchase-agreement placeholders with Progress Energy Florida for 50 megawatts of generation from the Hardee County site. It’s also signed a similar arrangement with Progress in Gadsden. And it’s looking for other buyers for the rest of the power it plans to produce at the two sites.