The team developing the new 320-acre, 42 MW AC solar farm at the Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) says the Tallahassee Solar II project has been completed after nearly two years of planning, design and coordination that included the airport, the city of Tallahassee’s electric utility department, Origis Energy, Michael Baker Int. and dozens of contractors and agencies.
When the new facility became operational in January, it joined TLH’s other solar farm that came online in 2018. Together, the two solar farms span 400 acres and produce 62 MW AC per year.
“The city of Tallahassee’s 62 MW airport-based solar facility, the largest of its kind, is a testament to our commitment to sustainability,” says John Dailey, mayor of Tallahassee.
“As the capital city of the Sunshine State, we are dedicated to preserving our community’s natural resources. Utilization of our airport property for the solar farm is part of our innovative approach toward reaching our goal of 100% net clean, renewable energy by 2050,” he adds.
Mariben Andersen, senior associate and environmental manager at Michael Baker Int., was in charge of the vital spreadsheet and many other elements of managing the project, including environmental assessments. When the timing complications came into play, Andersen worked with team members to morph sequential elements into concurrent tasks wherever possible to streamline the schedule and save money.
Although the two solar farm projects at TLH occurred less than two years apart, panel efficiencies improved dramatically since the first project was completed due to rapid developments in solar technology. This particularly came into play for Jason Thomas, director of development for Origis Energy, as he ensured timely procurement of the long lead-time items such as transformers, inverters and panels. Advancements in panel technology resulted in a more efficient use of the land.
Ben Cowart, manager of alternative energy with the city of Tallahassee, handled contract negotiations for three key contracts: the energy purchase agreement with FL Solar 4 LLC, the land lease between the city and TLH, and an interconnection agreement, which allows an electric generation source to connect into the city’s electric system.
Takeaways from Tallahassee Solar I certainly made the construction of the larger second project run more smoothly, and new lessons from Tallahassee Solar II will help guide other airports considering their own solar projects. While each of the contributing entities had varying priorities, their takeaways share some common themes: coordination, collaboration, communication and contingencies.
From the airport’s perspective, the solar farm provides a great source of non-aeronautical revenue on what would otherwise be an unused parcel of land.
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