TALLAHASSEE — Babcock Ranch developer Syd Kitson said Tuesday that reluctance on the part of state lawmakers may dim the chances that Babcock Ranch’s solar array will see the light of day this year.
Plans to begin construction on the 75-megawatt solar array are being hindered by the failure of the Florida House to take up a renewable energy bill that Kitson and others say is needed to authorize an expansion of solar energy incentives that make the project work.
It might not be lights out for Babcock Ranch, but Kitson said failure to pass a renewable energy bill would likely postpone construction of its 75-megawatt solar array, which is designed to provide all the electrical power needed for the brand-new community’s 19,700 homes.
Further, Kitson said the delay could jeopardize talks with three companies looking to bringing light industry into the community.
“The deal is to get started as soon as this year and really get that off and running,” said Kitson, who announced the joint solar project with Florida Power & Light two weeks ago. “... The response has been flabbergasting.”
With less than 10 days left in session, the House has yet to hold a hearing on the plan, which calls for power companies to increase the amount of energy they produce from renewable and clean sources by 20 percent by 2020.
The Senate Policy Committee on Ways and Means on Tuesday approved its energy bill 4-3 and sent it to the floor of that chamber for consideration. But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, told members he was pessimistic the bill would survive.
Environmentalists and Gov. Charlie Crist support the aggressive schedule, but the initiative has less support in the 120-member House.
“I’m fairly confident the last time anyone is going to hear this bill is today,” King told fellow committee members Tuesday.
Environmentalists say the Babcock Ranch project would be just the type of innovative project that could help promote Florida as a world leader in solar technology. Fueled by the state’s sunny climate and supported by a network of state funded universities already doing research in the field, the region could attract scores of spin-off companies.
“It would be an incredible jump start toward solar energy industry,” said Debbie Harrison, Florida director for the World Wildlife Fund.
Florida TaxWatch, a Tallahassee-based fiscal watchdog, said building and maintaining 1,500 megawatts of solar power could create 100,000 well-paying jobs, including solar technology companies.
“This is our opportunity to lose, if we don’t aggressively pursue being the nation’s leader in solar energy,” TaxWatch spokesman Robert Weissert told reporters Tuesday.
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