Pasco County

Dade City residents say 'no' to solar farm

DADE CITY, Fla. - (WFLA) - A TECO solar project in Dade City is getting quite the reception from area residents.  It's not the type of reception the company was hoping for. 

At an informative meeting at Pasco-Hernando State College, residents hoping for a presentation were upset and disappointed. 

Carol Cruz yelled to the crowd, "What I would like to know is how many people are for and how many people are against. How many people are for... Okay, we have one person in the audience. How many people are against. Yeah."

The project is slated to be constructed on agricultural land that borders Blanton Road just northwest of downtown Dade City. The land is currently vacant. 

People who live nearby are concerned with how it will look and what it could mean for people living nearby. 

"This is a unique area," said Cruz. "There aren't too many places in Florida that have the hills and beauty of this area. Now they want to come in with solar panels? That they don't even know if there are any harmful health issues with them."

But TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs counters that the research has been done and the solar farm will provide clean, efficient energy.  This is one of ten solar projects that are in the works. 

"This is fantastic step that Tampa Electric is making," said Jacobs. "A few months ago, Tampa Electric announced that we are significantly expanding our use of solar power. We are building 600-megawatts of solar power in ten projects."

Every Tampa Electric customer will see an affect on his or her bill. 

The company estimates about one dollar per project, per month once the project is completed.  If all goes as planned, that will mean about a $120 increase for the average TECO customer per year. 

The company is predicting the savings in solar power will offset that cost, but it doesn't have any hard figures to put on paper.

"The long term benefits of solar include fuel savings," said Jacobs. "Because of course, the fuel for a solar plant is the sun and there's no charge for that and that will benefit customers in the long run."

But those living nearby the proposed solar farm wonder what about them? What about now? 

Cruz and her sister Dot Wood fought for years to keep that area rural. They fought to keep the area looking like it did decades ago... and now this. 

Wood was in tears at the meeting.  

"You don't work 20 years to do something and just have somebody come along and destroy it," said Wood, wiping the tears off of her cheek.  "You have a wonderful eagle's nest on this property.  That eagle lives on that property.  Now it's going to eat solar dust and destroy its eggs?"

Sue Szczerba wasn't in tears at the meeting, nor trying to make a scene. But she too is concerned.

She's a real estate agent in the area and lives on the top of a hill not far from where the farm is proposed. She's not sure what it could do to her property value, but she understands it could have an adverse affect.  

"Location, location, location is everything and the aesthetics is very important," said Szczerba, looking at the rolling hills off of her back porch. "And it's not going to be pretty."


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