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Solar program underway at SVEC

Solar Panels - The Seminole Electric Cooperative project features more than 8,000 single-axis tracking solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which rotate to follow the movement of the sun throughout the day. -Courtesy Photo from Seminole

By Tami Stevenson

The availability of solar energy is increasing as researchers find new and better ways to harness our sun’s rays. Even in rural areas like the Suwannee Valley in North Florida, residents are now afforded the opportunity to help support solar energy through community cooperatives like Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) and their wholesale energy provider, Seminole Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Seminole).

This is Seminole’s first cooperative solar facility. It was dedicated last December, according to an August 1 release. During the past several months all construction has been completed, as well as performance testing.  It stated the valuable information learned from operating this first solar facility will benefit Seminole and their members as they continue to evaluate adding new resources to their energy mix.

The project features more than 8,000 single-axis tracking solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which rotate to follow the movement of the sun throughout the day. The solar field is located in Hardee County, south of the Polk County line near Seminole’s Midulla Generating Station.

SVEC announced last week that their cooperative solar program is now under way through their partnership with Seminole. The facility can produce a total output of 2.2 megawatts, which has been allocated to Seminole’s nine member cooperatives. According to SVEC Director of Communications Jon Little, SVEC was allocated 72 kilowatts of the solar farm’s output, divided into 144 “blocks” of 0.5 kilowatt each.

Last November, residential members were given the opportunity to reserve up to two blocks on a first-come first-served basis, according to the release. All 144 blocks were spoken for only four hours into the sign-up period..

“We knew going in there was a good interest and demand for solar energy among our members,” said Little. SVEC currently has 88 residents on the waiting list to sign up for the program.

“A lot of people were looking for ways to support solar energy without having to go through the hassle and expense of doing it themselves,” said Little. SVEC is taking that burden away from the homeowner with this cooperative solar program. According to Little there are many factors that enter in the economic equation – how much sunlight shines throughout the month, etc., as to whether the homeowner will save money or not, but the support is out there for solar energy.

The release stated that beginning with their September bill, SVEC members who have subscribed to SVEC’s blocks will be charged a monthly fee of $15 per block and receive an offset to their electricity consumption equal to the amount of power generated by their blocks.

“Many of our members have expressed an interest in supporting solar energy,” says SVEC’s CEO Michael McWaters in the release. “Cooperative Solar makes it possible for them to do so without the need for a sizeable up-front investment or the headaches of installing and maintaining their own solar system.”

SVEC serves three counties - Suwannee, Lafayette, Hamilton and a portion of Columbia.

The electricity generated from “Cooperative Solar” will be shared by each of Seminole’s nine distribution electric cooperatives. Of the nine, these are the cooperatives in our readership area: Central Florida Electric Cooperative in Chiefland, Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative in Live Oak and Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Madison.

Electricity production at Seminole’s new solar facility can be monitored at

Lightened solar field located in Hardee County -Courtesy Photo from Seminole Electric Cooperative, Inc.