Duke Energy’s plan to build a $113-million solar plant north of Crystal River will create 200 to 300 temporary jobs and potentially reduce customers’ bills over time.
The 74.9 megawatt Bay Trail Solar Power Plant will boast close to 197,000 solar panels. It will be built two miles north of the Duke Energy Complex in Crystal River, on the 500-acre Holcim Inc. mining site and will produce enough electricity to power about 23,000 average-sized homes at peak production.
Work on the plant is expected to start this month and be completed by the first quarter of 2022.
Along with the Citrus plant, Duke also announced this week it plans to build a similar one in Hardee County.
“Citrus County welcomes the Duke Energy Bay Trail Solar Power Plant into our community,” County Commission Chairman Scott Carnahan said. ”This investment promotes clean energy, brings jobs to our area and capital investment into our community. We believe this project will bring many benefits to our residents.”
Duke spokeswoman Ana Gibbs said the company will announce hiring plans for a variety of temporary jobs at a future date. The on-site contractor will work closely with the community.
“It is important that we hire local,” Gibbs said.
Once the plant is operating, it will be monitored remotely by Duke employees and require few on-site workers.
Duke Energy Florida state president Melissa Seixas said the plant will allow customers access to clean energy at a competitive price.
“These solar power plants are examples of how mining sites can be developed for renewable energy and benefit our communities and the environment,” Seixas said.
Utility companies nationwide are moving forward with plans to expand solar energy and Duke Energy last November announced it will invest $1 billion across Florida in the next three years to build 10 solar plants in Florida in the coming years. The plants will ultimately reduce the need to build costly natural-gas plants and help reduce carbon emissions.
Duke is calling its solar initiative the Clean Energy Connection Program and will help lower customers’ bills over time. Low-income customers, when they enroll, will see savings on their bill every month.
The plant's costs, along with the offsetting subscription fees, will go into base rates for customers.
It will involve some customers voluntarily paying more upfront on their bills to help finance the solar projects and then receiving future bill credits.
Customers will pay an $8.35 monthly per kilowatt subscription fee and receive a $9.03 monthly per kilowatt bill credit, producing a savings of 68 cents for every kilowatt subscribed, according to Duke.
For example, a low-income customer subscribing to a 3-kilowatt block would save $2.04 every month, or $24.48 annually.
Gibbs said the solar plant will connect to the grid so once energy leaves the facility, all of Duke’s 1.19-million customers in 35 Florida counties will benefit with reduced costs.
Gibbs said this investment shows the company’s long-term commitment to stay in Citrus County.
“We have a long history in this community,” Gibbs said. “This project demonstrates we’re going to be here for many more years to come.”