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Planned TECO Solar Farm In Pasco Stokes Community Concern

Tampa Electric plans to build 10 solar plants in the area by 2021.

Tampa Electric is planning to build a $75 million solar farm in East Pasco County.

The solar plant, which will add around 50 megawatts to the power grid, is part of an $850 million plan by TECO to create 10 solar plants by 2021. The company is asking Pasco County officials to allow it to build the solar farm, even though the land is zoned for agricultural use.

The proposed plant will cover more than 300 acres of rolling hills and some neighbors are concerned it will taint the rural characteristics of the area.

East Pasco resident Nancy Hazelwood said she likes the idea of having more green energy, but doesn't like the location.

"Solar is a good thing, but putting it in a rural community with people abutting it is another manner," she said.

Hazelwood said she and many of her neighbors have fought hard to keep that area of Pasco rural. In 2016, the Pasco County Commission approved a special zoning plan known as the Northeast Pasco Rural Protection Overlay District.

"The thing that makes our area unique is that it's very hilly and you can see a hill from a mile or two away," Hazelwood said. "That's going to be covered in black."

Hazelwood questioned why the plant could not be placed closer to the Withlacoochee River area where industrial development already exists.

TECO spokesperson Cherie Jacobs said the company took both location and access to the power grid into consideration when choosing the East Pasco site. She said the plant will not stand out more than a one-story building. 

"Tampa Electric is committed to being a good neighbor," Jacobs said. "These solar plants produce no noise, no pollution and they don't use additional water."

A community meeting about the proposed plant will be held on March 8 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at the Pasco-Hernando State College East Campus. The conference facility address is 36727 Blanton Road, Dade City 33523.

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.
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