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Florida pier parking goes solar

ST. PETERSBURG — The wheels have been set in motion for Duke Energy Florida to build a solar photo-voltaic car canopy in a section of a pier parking lot whose users will include patrons of a proposed Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille and nearby public boat slips.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and Duke Florida’s president Harry Sideris have signed a letter of understanding to move toward an agreement to construct a structure with an estimated cost of up to $2 million. Duke would cover the cost of the canopy at the Pelican parking lot, on the southern side of the pier approach.

The City Council will consider a resolution Thursday to support negotiating a lease with Duke.

Council vice chair Steve Kornell is "wholeheartedly supportive" of the project.

"When I first ran for Council in 2009, I spoke of using solar energy to help our general fund budget be more sustainable, in addition to all the environmental benefits, which are also important," he said.

"It’s going to be nice to have shaded parking. I hope that Duke will find other ways to work with us."

The proposed agreement calls for Duke Energy to pay to design, construct and maintain the solar canopy, which will have a 30-year life expectancy and produce between 400 and 650 kilowatts of energy. The energy produced will be tied to the grid and Duke will retain the solar renewable energy credits.

The power company will be asked ensure that it fits in with the 26-acre Pier District, coordinating with the district’s design teams and contractor, Skanska USA Building. Duke is also being asked to design the structure with present and future technology in mind, including vehicle charging stations and energy storage.

The city’s architect, Raul Quintana, said St. Petersburg will offfer input.

"We will be provided an opportunity to provide and approve the design," he said.

"We believe in solar technology and are committed to advancing the use of solar energy in Florida," said Ana Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy Florida.

"We look forward to working collaboratively with the city of St. Petersburg and other municipalities on meeting their clean energy and sustainability goals."

Duke will pay $12,000 a year to lease space in the Pelican parking lot. Under the city’s charter, the lease will have to be renewed every 10 years.

Besides the lease income and shaded parking, the city says the collaboration will provide the added benefit of supporting the Pier District’s sustainable theme.

"If you think about it, the parking lot would not just be used for parking cars, it’s going to be used to collect energy," Quintana said.

He said the district’s infrastructure will be certified sustainable. The certification is based on a rating system that includes environmental, social, energy and resiliency criteria. Quintana added that the Pier District will be the city’s "first infrastructure project to use this rating system."

The Duke Energy project will also include an educational component that will tie in with the pier’s planned education center.

The Pier District is scheduled to be finished in the summer of 2019, with tenant spaces completed in the fall.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.