Akira Wood would no longer have the largest solar power system in Gainesville if a 250-kilowatt system is built at a Wal-Mart Supercenter proposed at U.S. 441 and NW 34th Street.

The solar power system would be built as a structure to provide shade over the Wal-Mart parking lot in a partnership between the retailer, Gainesville Regional Utilities and Maryland-based SunEdison. GRU has been seeking partners to build a showpiece to promote solar energy as a renewable energy source to offset the harmful environment effects of traditional sources.

Hoch Shitama of Akira Wood and Wayne Irwin of Pure Energy Solar, which is installing Akira’s system, are among critics with questions about the deal, but GRU officials said there has been a lot of misunderstanding.

“I think we need to make it clear this is a benefit to GRU and its customers, not to Wal-Mart,” said Kathy Viehe, GRU assistant general manager of customer support services. “Wal-Mart is giving us money. We’re not giving them money.”

Wal-Mart has agreed to pay 30 percent or up to $1 million to construct a 250-kilowatt photovoltaic “array” that will provide shade over its parking lot. The power generated goes into the city’s grid. Early estimates are the project will cost $2 million, according to David Barclay, GRU utility analyst.

GRU has applied for a state grant that would cover most of the remaining cost, Barclay said. The Florida Renewable Technologies Grant promotes green energy sources.

Full Story: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20071220/NEWS/712200316/1002/NEWS