JEA to offer solar power to customers -- at a cost

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JEA customers will soon have the choice of either paying more for solar power or keeping their current rate for non-solar power.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the JEA board agreed to a payment plan that charges more for solar power than regular power now available to customers. The new bill structure will begin in October.

JEA said it’s a way for the utility and customers to go green. The company is planning on building a dozen solar farms this year to handle what they hope will be a demand for solar energy.

The solar energy farm in Baldwin is currently the only one that JEA has in the entire Jacksonville area. It's about six years old. Officials told News4Jax that there is enough power generated by that one solar farm to light up about 1,400 homes. 

But that could change by this summer.

The utility is hoping to build more solar energy farms all around the city to give customers an option.

JEA hopes to add more solar power to the electrical grid and the utility will allow private contractors to build 12 new solar farms throughout Jacksonville.  

“It's a way for us and our community to go green together,” said Melissa Dikes with JEA.

JEA will buy the electricity generated and add it to the current capacity. But JEA will also allow customers who want their power to be just from the sun to pay extra for it.

It will allow customers to buy up to 100 percent of their power from solar facilities "and really, to go green with JEA,” Dikes said.

But it’s not as simple as it sounds. All the power generated by JEA plants is actually mixed together -- solar and coal-fire electricity is not separated. And that’s kind of confusing for some customers.

“Why pay more if you get the same service?” Sonya Simpson, a JEA customer, asked.

The idea is to allow customers who support solar to be able to use it.

“It allows customers who can't install rooftop solar because they're perhaps multifamily customers or they have tree canopies. It allows those customers to participate in solar,” Dikes said.

For the average customer who wants to go totally solar, it would cost about $40 more a month

“I would be willing to pay more until the cost of the equipment, like the solar panels, have been paid back. But after that it should be cheaper because solar energy comes from the sun,” said Earletee Burnell Hannibal, another JEA customer.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.