Wheeler: City Commission should approve Solar PPA

Letter to the editor

I encourage the Gainesville City Commission to vote to approve the amended PPA for Gainesville’s first major utility-scale solar array, Origis Energy’s Sand Bluff Solar Project. This is an exciting next step towards a better future for us and for the generations that follow. Each kilowatt-hour produced by solar power that is lower in cost than any current total fuel costs per kilowatt-hour produced by burning fossil coal or gas is a win-win-win for our environment, our economy, and our community.  While I will not be available to attend the Thursday, April 20, 2023 Commission meeting at 1:00 p.m., I am writing now in support.

Burning dirty fossil fuels burns our planet–polluting groundwater when we extract, leaking climate-warming methane when we transport, and choking our atmosphere with greenhouse gases when we burn. An antiquated system that has proven to be horribly unreliable. Cold weather freezes transmission lines and foreign despots close off access to supplies, forcing us all to scramble (and pay exorbitantly) for these limited resources when these crises occur. It is time, past time, for change. Sand Bluff is an important next step in our transition from burning fossil fuels to clean, resilient, reliable, and less expensive locally produced renewable energy. 

Sand Bluff will not only help bring clean, utility-scale solar energy to Alachua County, but it will also help achieve Gainesville’s net zero, community-wide greenhouse gas emissions goals by 2045. Generating zero emissions, the Sand Bluff Solar Project will be a critical step towards ensuring our community has the clean energy it needs. 

Photo-voltaic solar is currently the lowest-cost way to produce electricity. The installation costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation have declined by eighty-two percent (82%) between 2010 and 2021. The levelized cost of producing solar PV electricity has declined by eighty-eight percent (88%) during this period (IRENA: “2021 Renewable Power Generation Costs”). Utility-scale solar projects, like Sand Bluff Solar, produce clean, reliable, resilient, and cost-effective energy for our community, now and for many years to follow. 

The citizens of Gainesville, through our utility, will produce, transmit, and distribute our own electricity through local solar power. Solar is a fuel source not subject to the uncertainties of a foreign war or northern freezes. Our utility will employ our citizens and will reinvest our money back into our community. We will be self-supporting and self-sustaining, not beholden to a distant Board of Directors who answer to their shareholders only. And no longer subject to outrageous fossil fuel pass-through costs (over which we have no control) that understandably upset our citizens. Through local solar, we will control our own destiny.

The Sand Bluff Project is an important incremental next step to get us there. From working with the community to find a new, mutually agreed upon site to keeping us informed of project updates, Origis has shown that they are committed to ensuring that this project is the best fit for the community and the environment. 

I ask that you take bold, effective action that will allow us to choose our own destiny. I hope you will join me in supporting the Sand Bluff Solar Project. 

Wes Wheeler, Gainesville

Wes Wheeler is an environmental advocate and is the former Chair of the City of Gainesville Utility Advisory Board.

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  • Why all the redacted costs? If this was such a great deal, why were the true figures intentionally hidden. Only litigation brought into the sunshine numbers we were not supposed to know. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

  • Hopefully the state is taking of GRU and will put a stop to this nonsense of just spending money like a drunk sailor this solar farm is just like the bio mess a waste

  • Whatever the State of Florida determines is best for GRU is good for me. We need electricity we can afford. We don’t need ESG tripling the
    Costs of our electricity. I’m not worried about manmade global warming. Leave electrical generation
    To the experts and leave politics out of it.

  • If GRU goes 100% renewable, then it may as well buy 100% off the wholesale market like Clay does. Then just merge with Clay and the other westside co-op reseller, what’s it called?

    • We in Clay want no part of GRU in any way shape or fashion. The liberals of Gainesville have brought this fiasco upon themselves; let them figure it out.

  • Wes W. is not a she, you may have him confused with Marihelen (unrelated female).

    • My bad, thanks for the correction. And apologies to Marihelen for falsely assuming she wrote the letter in support of the solar farm.

  • My gosh, someone else commenting who doesn’t know one government official or governing body from another. Will they apologize?

    • Of course. I’m willing to admit a mistake…unlike many.

  • I love when someone claims they want to stop burning dirty fossil fuel but believes that burning wood is just fine. Guess he didn’t bother to read the monthly reports that GRU use to produce for the UAB that clearly shows the Biomess Plant is the biggest polluter that GRU owns.

  • The Democrat Machine that brought us the wood burner (the dirtiest way to produce electricity of all) is wanting to start with a PPA that is too high right now, and wants to commit even more of the People’s money than proposed. We need to get out from under these grandiose ideas from the closed minds of the incompetent city commission. Solar IS NOT economical nor is it environmentally friendly. Certainly it is not dependable.

  • Again: Since Alachua county has been in the cross-hairs of hurricanes, tropical storms, and tornadoes, what exactly is the plan for when one of these destroys a solar farm?

  • God bless Wes. He doesn’t understand that Solar without battery backup is not reliable energy as defined by our regulatory bodies. It is only cheaper as a supplemental source based on its marginal cost with full utility backup. Wes, did you learn nothing from the years you spent on the UAB trying to get me fired?

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