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Gadsden County Selected for 520-Job Solar Farm

September 25, 2011 - 6:00pm

A Melbourne company is going to try employing the sun to create 520 jobs in Gadsden County.

Melbourne-based National Solar Power announced from the stairs of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee on Monday that the Panhandle county will be the home to a solar farm that will require $1.5 billion in economic enhancements for the construction of 20 200-acre solar farms.

Gov. Rick Scott welcomed the project.

Its only fitting that Americas Sunshine State shines brightest in attracting this significant economic engine to make its home here, Scott stated in a release.

The company, which is seeking property tax breaks in Gadsden Countyand state job training credits, spent more than a year reviewing sites across Florida, Georgia and North Carolina for the solar farm, whichwill convert solar power into electricity to be sold to electric companies, said James Scrivener, CEO of National Solar Power.

This puts Florida on the map as far as clean energy development, Scrivener said.

The project, a 400-megawatt facility that would power 32,000 homes, will require about 400 construction jobs and create 120 permanent positions.

The project will also include a training facility at Tallahassee Community Colleges Gadsden County campus.

In Florida, Gadsden County was selected over sites in Hardee, Osceola and Suwannee counties.

Gadsden County Commission Chairwoman Sherrie Taylor said the work force and land are both available for the solar project.

This is what you call smart growth and development, Taylor said.

Unemployment in August for Gadsden County stood at 10.6 percent.

Scrivener said the company is continuing to work with officials from Hardee County on a separate project.

The first 20-acre site in Gadsden County is expected to be under way within six months, with 10 solar farms built within five years.

Hensel Phelps Construction Co., which rebuilt the Pentagon after 9/11 in 2001, has been contracted to design, build and operate the farms.

The privately funded National Solar Power was founded in 2010.

Scrivener said economic conditions have improved for solar energy.

This is all possible as a result of many things happening within the market place, he said. Namely, the reduction in price of components of solar and also our ability to sell the energy at a competitive market price.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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