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Ikea Installs Solar Panels at Tampa Store

The solar paneling system atop Ikea's Tampa store measures 148,700 square feet. The store's interior is 353,000 square feet.

The furniture store known for saving you some green is itself a little greener.

This morning, the Swedish chain Ikea officially plugged in 4,956 solar panels on the roof of its Tampa store, for nearly 1.2 meagwatts of power.

That's the same as...

-  1.8 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity annually

- Eliminating 242 cars each year, or...

- Powering 154 homes, according to the EPA's online calculator.

"This is our 22nd installation in the U.S., and we have 17 more under way," said Ikea spokesman Joseph Roth. "That will bring us to 89 percent of our locations with solar panels."

That will also bring Florida one step closer to shedding its lower-than-expected standing in the latest solar energy production figures.

In June, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released this report ranking states according to the number of solar energy systems installed in the first quarter of 2012.

Florida ranked No. 14 -- up four spots from last year but still low for the so-called Sunshine State.

New Jersey installed the most new solar energy from January to March; its homes, businesses and power companies adding 173.8 megawatts. Florida added just 2.8 megawatts.

"It's no surprise to see the states that are strongest right now are the states that have also put in policies that have encouraged investment in solar," said SEIA spokeswoman Monique Hanis.

Still, Hanis said, when a megastore like Ikea turns to solar power, other businesses take notice.

"This demonstrates that large companies are seeing the value of investing in solar today," Hanis said. "It allows them to save money on their energy bills.

"It also allows them to manage fluctuating energy costs, because when you invest in solar, you're investing in a fixed price that lasts 25 to 30 years," she said. "That's how long the equipment lasts."

About 10 miles north of Ikea, another big name is investing in solar power. At Tampa's James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, installation is under way on solar panels in four parking lots. The panels should be operational by next month, providing 3.5 megawatts, a spokeswoman said.

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