Florida's Largest Solar Power Array Dedicated in Sarasota
SARASOTA, Florida, February 13, 2008 (ENS) - The newest and largest solar power facility in sunny Florida was switched on Monday at Rothenbach Park in Sarasota County. The site is located on a former landfill that was closed in 1998 and is owned by the county.

Governor Charlie Crist joined Florida Power & Light president Armando Olivera for the dedication ceremony of FPL's Sunshine Energy Solar Array.

"I am thankful for the leadership of the Sarasota County government and Florida Power and Light in partnering to provide alternative methods of powering our homes and businesses," Governor Crist said.

"The economic future of our state is linked to our maintaining its natural beauty," said the governor, "and this solar power facility is an excellent example that other communities can work to achieve."

The array, the second-largest in the Southeast, consists of 1,200 solar photovoltaic panels mounted at ground level, covering more than 28,000 square feet, or about half the size of a football field.

The solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, producing 250 kilowatts of clean energy, enough energy to power 55 average homes. Operating them prevents the release of more than 654,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, says FPL.

The new solar array, Florida's largest, is at Rothenbach Park. (Photo courtesy FPL)

Construction of the array was made possible by FPL's Sunshine Energy program, a voluntary green power program offered as a choice for FPL residential and commercial customers who want to support cleaner, renewable electric generation.

The facility at Rothenbach Park is the first solar project to be announced as a result of the Sunshine Energy program.

Since the Sunshine Energy program was first offered in 2004, more than 37,000 FPL residential and business customers have enrolled in the program, which has prevented 756 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That is comparable to removing 67,000 cars from the road.

"We have a responsibility to ourselves and to future generations to take steps that will conserve our state's precious resources and ecosystem," said Olivera. "We thank Governor Crist for his leadership on climate change and development of renewable power and we thank our customers for making the promise of Sunshine Energy a reality."

Sarasota County donated the land for the solar array as part of the county's own mission to support and promote sustainability efforts in the region.

Located at the east end of Bee Ridge Road, three miles east of Interstate 75, the park is part of the High Point Complex which includes an animal shelter, a chemical collection center and the Sarasota Public Works facility operations center.

Future plans for the park include walking trails and a nature center, a picnic facility, playground, bike trail, restrooms, parking and lighting.

Jeff Bartel, vice president of external affairs for FPL, said, "Sarasota County officials have a strong environmental commitment and we are excited about the prospect of utilizing a closed landfill for a solar facility."

"Our partnership with FPL has helped us to further our own sustainability goals for the region," said Sarasota County Commission Chair Shannon Staub.

"Sustainability initiatives continue to take root and grow across the county as we implement new internal processes and engage the community to build their own sustainability programs," she said.

The solar project was developed for FPL by MMA Renewable Ventures with financial support by Green Mountain Energy Company. The PV panels were manufactured by SunPower Corporation. The solar array was installed by Sunbelt Electric of Sarasota.

Riding a wave of enthusiasm for alternative and renewable energy solutions, Sarasota County and New College of Florida are organizing Get EmPowered 2008 on Friday, February 22, at New College of Florida. Local, state and national representatives, along with business and civic leaders will focus on ways to achieve Governor Crist's three executive orders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency and security, and position Florida as a hub of innovation to develop and commercialize green energy technologies.

To offset greenhouse gas emissions associated with the symposium's travel, building energy use and food, FPL's Sunshine Energy Program will donate Renewable Energy Credits created by generating power at the new Rothenbach Park solar array.

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