The City of Orlando is a model for other cities pursuing a transition to clean energy. SACE highlights active steps Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) is taking to deliver on this commitment.Bryan Jacob | January 27, 2020
Brady Watson, former Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, also contributed to this blog post.
Last week, WMFE-NPR (90.7 FM) aired a segment covering the City of Orlando’s pursuit of an ambitious 100% Renewable Energy Resolution. The resolution calls for all electricity consumed in the city to come from renewable energy resources by the year 2050.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) had previously identified the City of Orlando as an example for other cities to follow when making 100% Clean Energy commitments. For this radio segment, we emphasized that the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), self-proclaimed as “The Reliable One”, is indeed making genuine strides toward its clean energy future.
Early Adopter of Clean Energy
The City of Orlando deserves credit as an early adopter in this space. They had ALREADY committed to a greenhouse gas reduction target aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement (90% reduction 2007-2040). And they had ALREADY committed “to powering 100% of municipal operations using clean, renewable energy sources by 2030.”
Then, in August 2017, the City Council voted to EXPAND that commitment to the entire City by 2050. The City’s 100% Renewable Energy Resolution states it will:
“…Expand on [its] commitments, in cooperation with other local governments, private organizations, and individuals, to achieve 100% of all electricity consumed in the City of Orlando to come from renewable energy resources and associated technologies by the year 2050.”
Making Reliable Progress
Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) is the municipal utility owned by the citizens of Orlando and serves approximately 240,000 customers in Orlando and St. Cloud along with parts of Orange and Osceola counties.
OUC earned the designation as one of seven “SunRisers” in the SACE “Solar in the Southeast” 2018 Annual Report. SunRisers are the utilities demonstrating leading levels of planned solar growth. OUC is the “anchor tenant” in three utility-scale solar projects commissioned by the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA). In total, those projects represent 223.5 MW of solar and the OUC share will be 108.5 MW. That alone earned SunRiser status, but…
Since then, OUC has commissioned two more solar projects representing an additional 149 MW, enough to power more than 13,000 homes. Mathematically, that could propel OUC to the top of our “Watts per Customer” leaderboard.
As part of that package, OUC is also installing a groundbreaking hydrogen storage system. “Hydrogen will be stored for use in fuel cell electric vehicles or in stationary fuel cells for later electricity production.”
OUC is implementing grid-connected Lithium-ion batteries, as well. Battery storage provides an array of benefits and, in particular, helps to smooth the variable output of energy resources like solar.
In addition to the centralized battery storage systems, OUC has also instituted a $2000 rebate for residential customers who install battery storage as a complement to their home solar photovoltaic systems. Battery storage offers resilience as a backup source during power outages.
OUC was the second utility in the country to install solar on top of a coal ash landfill as reported by Orlando Sentinel in 2016.
Since 2017, OUC has been experimenting with floating solar. Its initial pilot test is relatively small, 31.5 kilowatt (kW), but could have great potential with so many lakes, impoundments, and retention ponds in the area.
At this point, it’s not possible to know all the additional steps that will be necessary to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050. But these projects are all testaments to OUC’s already strong commitment to renewable energy, and will truly raise the bar for utilities in the Southeast for years to come.