Residents speak out as Gainesville city leaders move forward with city’s first large-scale solar project

The project is set to be finished by March of next year.
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 7:36 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - After almost a year of approving the project, Gainesville commissioners agreed to move forward with the expansion of solar panels.

Gainesville regional utilities and ‘Origis Energy company signed a deal in 2018 to supply and generate clean and renewable energy to more than 11 thousand homes in Gainesville.

After backlash from residents in the Archer African-American historic community, the Sand Bluff Solar project will be built about 15 miles west of downtown Gainesville instead.

“The original agreement was not able to move forward for a variety of reasons so what they’ve come back with is an opportunity to do a significantly larger solar array,” said Mayor Harvey Ward. “Instead of it being 50 megawatts, it’s 74 point-something megawatts so significantly larger. There are some differences in price because some time has passed and inflation has happened so we’ll be able to consider a much larger impact with solar than we had before.”

Although Gainesville city commissioners voted to move forward with a solar project, people like Rachel Walker didn’t come to talk about the topics on the agenda.

Walker told commissioners about the significant increase in her bill and the rise she’s seen in others. She also brought up what she thinks could happen to people who cannot afford their high GRU bills.

“People are paying at least close to 400, some people are paying 800. I’ve seen a bill be 2,000.” said Walker. “I think that it’s going to increase homelessness, it’s going to put kids and families at risk for diseases by not being able to have proper hygiene not being able to have running water not being able to cook”

Mayor Ward said this solar agreement between GRU and Origis energy is part of their goal to reach a ‘sustainable community’ by 2035. The project is set to be finished by March of next year.

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