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Duke Energy has unveiled a plan to transform sunshine into electricity in DeBary.

The solar-power plant is proposed on 350 acres along the north side of West Highbanks Road, not far from a conventional electric plant Duke Energy already owns and operates. 

Construction of the plant is supposed to begin during the first quarter of 2019, and the facility may be completed by the end of that year.

Duke is planning to add 10 solar farms to its Florida electric grid over the next 10 years, according to company spokeswoman Ana Gibbs.

“This is our first one locally,” she said.

The DeBary solar farm may cost as much as $100 million to build. 

It will consist of some 300,000 photovoltaic panels placed on rows tilted toward the south to catch the maximum rays of the sun available each day. 

The DeBary facility will be capable of generating 75 megawatts of electricity daily — enough to meet the energy demands of about 21,000 homes, Gibbs said.

The Duke solar project will be a boost to the local economy.

“During construction, there will be 50 to 200 jobs,” Gibbs said. “Once it is built, there will be some jobs.”

The solar plant, when finished, is supposed to provide clean energy without emissions, noise or other nuisances. 

Before the facility is built, the DeBary City Council must approve the site plan. 

Duke must also obtain permits from regulatory agencies such as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

DeBaryites close to the solar site want to be certain the facility will not affect their homes and lives.

“I have a fence that separates their property from my property,” DeBary resident Van Conoley said. “I want to know how many lights are going to be on at night, how many trucks are going to be there, and how many access roads there are going to be.”

“My only concern is, I would like to see a fence at every access. To leave it open is not good for security reasons,” Marshall Lee, another neighbor, said during Duke Energy’s open house at DeBary City Hall Aug. 16.

Duke Energy, whose headquarters are in Charlotte, North Carolina, provides electricity in 19 counties in Florida. 

Duke acquired Progress Energy’s franchise in Florida a few years ago. 

The Florida Public Service Commission regulates the company’s rates and charges.

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