TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ What would be the Southeast's largest solar power farm, generating enough electricity for 32,000 homes, is planned to be built in the Florida Panhandle, a Melbourne-based company announced Monday.
National Solar Power plans to construct the $1.5 billion, 400-megawatt solar array in Gadsden County, just west of Tallahassee.
The project is expected to provide jobs for 400 construction workers over five years and up to 120 permanent employees with an average salary of $40,000.
Construction of the project is scheduled to begin in early 2012, but that's only if receives state and local permits and secures final financing. A company spokesman said that there are national and global firms interested in investing. But so far no deals have been announced, nor have the names of any of the banks or investors been released.
National Solar has an agreement to provide electricity to Progress Energy Florida, which serves parts of central and north Florida.
The company also is in discussion with other potential customers.
“It's only fitting that America's `Sunshine State' shines brightest in attracting this significant economic engine to make its home here,'' Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.
National Solar selected the 4,000-acre Gadsden site from among several areas it considered in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. The company plans on leasing or purchasing the needed land, although those deals are still pending as well.
Company CEO James Scrivener said Gadsden was chosen for several reasons, including “its great year-round climate, strong community leadership, incredibly inviting regional support and the strong potential for future economic growth.''
The sites that were passed over, though, may yet be selected for future projects, Scrivener said. The company remains in discussion with those communities and plans to announce another solar project in Hardee County southeast of Tampa.
Scrivener credited Scott and the state's economic development team as well as the Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce and Tallahassee Community College with helping persuade National Solar to pick to the Gadsden site.
The state of Florida, however, is not pledging any economic incentives for the project.
Scrivener also announced a partnership with the college to create a solar energy education and training center at its Gadsden branch campus. That facility will feature a two-megawatt scale solar farm.
State Rep. Alan Williams, a Tallahassee Democrat whose district includes parts of Gadsden, said he was thrilled with the project but that Florida needs to do even more to promote alternative energy.
“I continue to believe that in the face of our state's energy dependency and economic challenges, it is imperative that Florida create energy policies as a key element to developing available domestic resources to meet our energy goals,'' Williams said in a statement.