WREC-solar-arrayIt’s not unusual to drive by a house and see a dozen solar panels on the roof. That’s about how many typically go atop a 2,000-square-foot home.

But 348 solar panels? Who in the world would have so many?

Well, if you’ve driven by the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative (WREC) office off State Road 44 office in Lecanto, you’ve doubtless seen a field of that many panels. The oaks and pines that used to be there were cleared away and technicians came in to install the panels behind a gate clearly seen from the road.

The visibility was intentional.

WREC spokesman David Lambert said it was to impress upon residents and WREC customers the importance of going solar and the company’s commitment to the initiative.

And hopefully, it will start a conversation, Lambert said.

He knows there are scammers who try and sell people the wrong number of panels for their home or ask for down payments and never show up afterward.

“We get a lot of questions from our members about solar energy,” Lambert said. “Many are not getting the right information. We want them to be able to see (the panels) and talk to us about solar.”

The Lecanto office at 5330 S.R. 44 is the first WREC district building to get the solar field. The corporate office in Dade City has a smaller-type operation.

The WREC panels are 350 watts each and cost a total of $200,000. The company spent about $25,000 for site clearing and fencing. It was important the trees come down and the panels sit in full sun because it would hinder the process in which the solar rays from sunlight are converted into electricity, he said.

Lambert said it took about six months from permitting through installation.

“That’s a major system,” Lambert said. “We had to cut up the parking lot, trench over to the (field). If you were doing it at your home, you wouldn’t have all those same costs.”

Any excess energy generated will go out on the grid when not being used at the office and will be consumed by WREC members in Citrus County.

“A lot of people wouldn’t think that, as a utility, we would be this involved in environmental issues,” Lambert said. “But we’re a co-op. We’re concerned for the community and the environment.”

Lambert said the panels will go online sometime this week. All it will take is a flip of the switch at the inverter box.

Solar energy, said Lambert, “is the future and it’s here today.”