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Darden Restaurants builds largest private solar plant in Florida

$5.6 Million array could pay for itself in a decade, officials say

ORLANDO, Fla. – The largest private solar plant in Florida went online today.

But the 1.1 million watt plant is not in a field.

It's on the roof of Darden Restaurants Inc.'s  headquarters/restaurant support center  near John Young Parkway and Taft-Vineland Road in South Orange County.

The Solar arrary creates a canopy over the four-story parking garage and stretches to part of the roof of the main building

The $152 million headquarters was built without solar in 2009, but Darden says costs have falled so far since then it became practical to add it at a cost of $5.6 million.

The project to install the 4,404 panels started in September.  it should generate 1.9 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. That's enough power for 160 homes and will provide 20 percent of the building's power needs.

Progress Energy awarded Darden a conservation rebate of $260,000.