March 30, 2015

Energy

Solar Energy Generated from Billboards?

Charlotte Crane | 2/1/2008

Lamar Advertising Co. and Gulf Power Co. have teamed up for solar lighting research that could funnel solar energy from hundreds of billboards into Florida power grids.


Solar panels atop Lamar Advertising billboards in Escambia County will direct energy into Gulf Power’s grid.

The Baton Rouge, La.-based outdoor advertising giant has mounted solar panels on four of its largest billboards in Escambia County for the experiment, which represents the first time Lamar has tried funneling solar-produced energy directly into a power grid, rather than using solar to charge batteries. “We’re in a sense selling power to the power company and then buying it back,” says Bobby Switzer, Lamar’s Pensacola-based vice president of operations, who initiated the project.

The hookup is also a first for Atlanta-based Southern Co., says John Hutchinson, spokesman for Gulf Power, a Southern subsidiary. “This will give us baseline information for feasibility for all billboards. This is electricity we don’t have to produce and without carbon dioxide emissions, an unwanted byproduct.”

Lamar has about 1,000 billboards in northwest Florida and operates statewide. Expansion of solar lighting depends on factors such as state incentives, federal tax credits, congressional aid and energy pricing, says Switzer. “Currently, the price for what (Gulf) buys back from us is woefully low,” he says, about 4 cents per kilowatt hour. That level, says Hutchinson, is set by the Florida Public Service Commission and based on the utility’s “avoided cost.” Lamar buys electricity from Gulf for about 9 cents per kilowatt hour.

Hutchinson thinks repricing is a possibility. “With all the focus on renewables right now, this is something that we think will be looked at by the PSC.”

Tags: Energy & Utilities, Northwest

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single ditgital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Driving legend Mario Andretti tours Grand Prix course
Driving legend Mario Andretti tours Grand Prix course

Retired race driving legend Mario Andretti drove the course for the 2015 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, testing the city’s streets for this weekend’s race. 

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Health care spending in Florida: The state is about to lose $2 billion in federal funds for the Low-Income Pool (LIP). Which legislative body is right?

  • The House. Their budget does NOT fund LIP.
  • The Senate. Their budget funds LIP.

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe