One of the largest rooftop solar farms in Florida is now under construction in Gainsville, Florida as part of a new Publix-anchored shopping center. Once complete, the 350 kW solar array will have nearly 1,500 panels spanning 46,000 square-feet atop the Exchange shopping center. The solar panels will begin providing electricity by the end of March 2011 and will be purchased by Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU).
GRU is purchasing the power under its feed-in tariff program, which began in 2009 to foster renewable energy growth. Under the program, GRU will pay a fixed price for the power generated by the solar system over the next 20 years with the developers providing the financing for the system. This type of program allows the solar facility to be built at no upfront cost to either GRU or Stafford Properties, based in Atlanta, Georgia, who owns the fully leased 88,000 square-foot shopping center.
The project was put together by BrightPath Energy and The Real Thing Solar Energy Services developed and structured the project before selling their interest in the solar plant to Nautilus Solar. Nautilus Solar, the permanent owner of the system, will manage the construction process with Inman Solar. Inman Solar is designing, engineering and constructing the system.
Stafford is receiving lease payments in exchange for hosting the system on its roof. At the same time, a more reflective and better insulated roof is being installed at The Exchange shopping center which should help lower electricity bills for tenants. In addition to the solar rooftop, the shopping center also has other “green” features.