TECO moves forward with Dade City solar farm despite backlash from residents

- Dozens of residents in Pasco County came to a public meeting to express their concerns over TECO’s proposed solar farm in Dade City.

Most of the people at the meeting seemed to be on the same page. They don’t like the idea of living next to a massive solar panel farm.

On the other hand, TECO says this is part of a broader plan to use renewable resources.

They’re working on several solar power projects to supply enough electricity for 100,000 homes within the next three years.

The 355-acre property is located along Blanton Road off of I-75. The land is currently designated for agricultural use, but TECO is seeking an exception to change the land’s use criteria.

Residents like Susan Meinardt say it’s hard to imagine giving up their breathtaking view for a solar panel farm.

 “I love this vista. I feel like one morning I may be in West Virginia, the next morning North Carolina,” Meinardt said.

She loves living in rural Pasco County and she’s not alone. Thursday night, dozens showed up to defend the serene surroundings they believe are in jeopardy.

“Most of these folks are country folks and they want to keep it that way,” Terry Martin said.

Amid the negative feedback, TECO organized Thursday’s walk-and-talk-style meeting to offer information answer questions and hear residents out.

“This is nothing but just an economic deal. This is not about the public, this is not about Dade City,” resident Ronald Bell said. “If you want to move to Florida and you want to move to someplace that’s really attractive, you are not going to pick a place that’s next door to one of these farms.”

Others weren’t completely against the solar panel project, which TECO says would generate 55 megawatts of electricity from one of Florida’s most iconic renewable resources.

“Will it reduce our electric bill? By how much?” Terry Martin wondered, saying solar panels may be the lesser of two evils. “I think I would prefer solar panels rather than houses because that would really have an impact.”

But those mixed feelings seem to be overpowered by those who have already made up their mind.

“To destroy this magnificent vista, this ridge the natural beauty that it has to offer is heartless,” Meinhardt said.

TECO says it is in the process of buying the land it needs for the project.

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