Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council & PCGS Project Update

Warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico are brewing stronger hurricanes greater in frequency and intensity. By November 2020, the list of named storms has moved well into the Greek alphabet. Pinellas County is a peninsula surrounded by two bodies of water, the Gulf of Mexico Ocean on the West and Tampa Bay Estuary on the south and east. Pinellas County has luckily dodged some of the worst hurricanes of recent history but has not entirely avoided widespread power outages from fallen trees, offline traffic lights, and disturbed supply changes. Extended power outages jeopardize vulnerable communities, hospitals, and the elderly that depend upon refrigerants for cooling the indoors, medical supplies, and food.

The inescapable truth is the climate is changing because of human action and inaction. The Sunshine State has an abundance of clean renewable carbon-neutral energy ready to harvest and store. The ability to mitigate the risk posed to the grid through solar PV plus battery storage is a viable option now that the cost of lithium-ion batteries has decreased in response to the rising market demand for electric vehicles. This offers communities an enormous opportunity to create a safety net for extended widespread power outages.

The time is now to take action to harden the power grid and safeguard our coastal community from a long-lasting power outage. In the past, resiliency plans relied on diesel generators for a finite amount of fuel. The Clear Sky Tampa Bay has partnered with Pinellas County, other local counties, and the Patel College of Global Sustainability to develop a resilience-based siting and valuation toolkit for solar + storage. The toolkit will enable decision-makers from all backgrounds with a plethora of analytical models and standardized tools in a platform to seamlessly value energy investments. In this report, a toolkit methodology is applied to provide site prioritization and valuation for solar plus battery storage at three facilities in Pinellas County.

When asked to comment on the project, Karim I. Molina-Oyola, Pinellas County's OAM Energy & Water Program Coordinator, said, "the case study analysis conducted by the USF students has been very impressive, not only from the scope of work and research, but also because of the detail in their report. Ultimately, the student's collective work will drive decisions focused on future Solar PV system energy conservation projects. On behalf of the Sustainability & Resiliency Coordinator and the Energy & Water Conservation Coordinator, we want to thank you for your amazing work!" The praise from those our students are working with make us feel proud of our students. We are pleased to have those in our college excelling at another community project.