Tampa Electric, subsidiary of TECO Energy (NYSE: TE), today announced the utility will build the largest solar project in the Tampa Bay area. The 25-megawatt (MW) facility will feature more than 70,000 solar panels on 125 acres of company-owned land at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. Scheduled to be completed in 2016, the solar project will be the largest ever built by Tampa Electric and have the capacity to power more than 3,500 homes. "Tampa Electric has a long history of pursuing and supporting solar power," said Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas. "With this project, we will have invested more than $50 million in solar since 2000. We're pleased to be able to demonstrate our commitment to providing our customers with more renewable energy by taking advantage of declining solar system prices and the land we own at Big Bend. "This large-scale facility will benefit our more than 700,000 customers and showcase how a diversified mix of energy resources delivers affordable and reliable energy to meet Florida's electricity needs now and in the future," added Gillette. Hillsborough County Commission Chair Sandy Murman said, "Siting this solar project at Big Bend is certain to increase the visibility and understanding of solar power in the Tampa Bay area. I commend Tampa Electric for their vision and long-standing commitment to the environment and community." The Big Bend site includes Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center (MVC), which has hosted more than 4.3 million visitors since it opened in 1986. That number will increase with construction underway at the Florida Conservation and Technology Center just south of the property. The Big Bend installation is the second large-scale solar project being built by Tampa Electric. The first, a 2-MW facility at Tampa International Airport, is under construction on the top floor of the airport's south economy parking garage. Scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, it will be able to produce enough electricity to power up to 250 homes, or roughly the equivalent of the airport's new 1.4-mile automated people mover. The large-scale solar installations at Big Bend and Tampa International Airport highlight Tampa Electric's commitment to clean energy and complement the utility's existing solar systems that since 2000 have allowed customers to voluntarily purchase renewable energy. Today, the company has installed solar systems at LEGOLAND Florida, the Florida Aquarium, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry, the MVC, and two schools (Walker Middle School and Middleton High School). Tampa Electric plans to install another solar PV system as part of its Renewable Energy program this year. The 25-MW solar facility at Big Bend will further reduce Tampa Electric's overall carbon dioxide emissions. The utility is an industry leader in emissions reductions, having completed a $1.2 billion agreement to dramatically reduce overall emissions. Tampa Electric, one of Florida's largest investor-owned electric utilities, is part of the TECO Energy family of companies. Tampa Electric serves more than 700,000 customers in West Central Florida. TECO Energy Inc. (NYSE: TE) is an energy-related holding company with regulated electric and gas utilities in Florida and New Mexico: Tampa Electric, Peoples Gas System and New Mexico Gas Co. Other TECO Energy subsidiaries include TECO Coal, which owns and operates coal-production facilities in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.