Fields and rooftops filled with reflective slabs soaking in the power of the sun and converting it to energy appear to be all the rage this year with utilities and businesses throughout Tampa Bay.
Company officials say they’re adding solar arrays because they want to be a good environmental partner, but building them now, by most accounts, just makes financial sense.
Several factors play into the trend that has rooftops and parking lots glistening with mirrored panels at Tampa International Airport, Great Bay Distributors in St. Petersburg, Lockheed Martin in Oldsmar and other local sites.
The growing trend reflects a dramatic drop in price for an alternative energy source long thought too expensive to be cost efficient. The reduced costs have been attributed to the mass production of solar panels, with some being manufactured in China.
The median upfront project costs for solar arrays have dropped from about $6.3 per watt in 2009 to $3.1 per watt for projects completed in 2014, according to a report released by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) earlier this year.
The other significant factor: a 30 percent federal tax credit on a solar project’s costs — a tax break that expires in 2016.