Solar Panel Farm

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) Alachua and Putnam counties average more sunlight than nearly 90% of counties across the country. What better place to invest in solar infrastructure than the sunshine state?

Florida Power & Light has over 20,000 local customers, many of whom will receive energy from the 1,315 acre solar farm in Hawthorne.

"This site will generate 74.5 megawatts when it's all done. That's enough to power 15,000 homes with clean emissions free energy, equivalent to removing 12000 cars off the road each year," said Stephen Heiman, FPL Spokesperson.

It will be a quiet unmanned operation run remotely meaning no traffic to the area. It also runs using no water or fuel preserving those resources.

The facility is built with the environment in mind - building around sensitive wetlands and with plans to include pollinator plants on the site between solar panels.

This land used to be used for farming hay. Now FPL is using them to farm the sun's rays. The pilings don't have a foundation on them, which means the land is preserved and can be used for anything in the distant future.

"The operational lifetime of a solar power plant is 30 years. The soil will be better than it would have been if it was farmed on for 30 years because it will have time to re-enrich itself," said Heiman.

Another benefit? Local construction jobs. Of the 220 people working on the site, 120 are from Alachua or Putnam counties.

We take positives and we stick it with the negatives and someone comes around with t's and plug them together at the end and that's what makes electricity," said Hawthorne resident Jailene Jones.

But only FPL's customers will receive that electricity. Alachua county residents interested in reducing their carbon footprint at a low rate are forming a solar co-op to reduce residential solar panel prices.

FPL's Horizon Solar Energy Center is scheduled for completion at the end of the year.