Avalon Park Daytona developer unveils plans to build massive solar farm on SR-40

Article Courtesy of  The Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Clayton Park

Published January 15, 2021


DAYTONA BEACH — The developer of the planned 10,000-home Avalon Park Daytona Beach community that would be the largest ever built in Volusia County now wants to add a massive solar farm that would be one of the biggest in Florida.

Orlando developer Beat Kahli on Wednesday announced that he has put under contract to buy a 6,253-acre timberland property along State Road 40 west of Tiger Bay State Forest. He said he intends to build a 300-megawatt solar farm on a portion of the property that could potentially provide electric power to as many as 60,000 homes.

"I want to be able to power all the homes at Avalon Park Daytona Beach and beyond," he said.

The first phase of the solar farm could become operational as soon as 2023, pending the necessary regulatory approvals which have yet to be obtained.

"We believe the time has come for this," said Kahli, the CEO of Avalon Park Group, of the planned solar farm which would be built on a roughly 1,600-acre portion of the timberland property known as the "Woods of Ormond Beach."

The largest solar farms in Florida currently all are roughly 75-megawatts in daily power-generating capacity.

FPL operates two solar farms in Volusia County: the 74.5-megawatt FPL Pioneer Trail Solar Energy Center in Samsula that opened along the south side of State Road 44 last year and a 2.1-megawatt "solar circuit" that opened at Daytona International Speedway in early 2016.

One megawatt is enough electricity to power 150 to 200 homes, according to Kahli.

This is a view of the future site of the planned 10,000-home Avalon Park Daytona Beach master-planned community looking west along State Road 40 in Daytona Beach on Dec. 10, 2020. Avalon Park Group developer/CEO Beat Kahli on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, announced plans to develop a 300-megawatt solar farm five miles to the west on a portion of a 6,253-acre property he just put under contract to buy. The land is on the other side of Tiger Bay State Forest.


NextEra Energy, FPL's parent company, in early 2019 announced plans to build a 409-megawatt battery to its existing 74.5-megawatt solar farm near Tampa that would make it the largest in the world. The FPL Manatee Energy Storage Center project is expected to be completed later this year, said FPL spokesman Chris McGrath.

Duke Energy operates a 74.5-megawatt solar farm in DeBary that opened in 2020. The DeBary Solar Power Plant is north of West Highbanks Road. "We have several solar farms that are all just under 75 megawatts," said Ana Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the utility company. "I can tell you we don't have anything close to being 300 megawatts, at least not in Florida."

Kahli said he was prohibited at this time to disclose the name of the seller or the sale price for the land. He said his purchase is expected to close in three months.

David Hitchcock, a commercial Realtor with SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate in Lakeland, confirmed that his firm has been marketing a 7,086-acre timberland property along State Road 40 called the "Woods of Ormond Beach." All but an 828-acre parcel on the west side has been put under contract to be sold.

Hitchcock said he was not at liberty to disclose the identity of the buyer or details regarding the pending land sale.

A brochure for the Woods of Ormond Beach describes the property as a "forested tract" owned by Weyerhaeuser, the Seattle, Washington-based timber giant. The land is in unincorporated Volusia County adjacent to the border of Flagler County.

It is 10 miles west of Interstate 95 and is currently zoned to allow for up to 600 homes and up to three acres of non-residential development that could include buildings of no more than 8,500-square-feet in size.

The listed asking price for the property is $3,995 an acre. That would put the total amount Kahli has agreed to pay potentially as high as $24.9 million.
This is a snapshot of a site map showing the 6,253-acre "Woods of Ormond" property that Orlando-based Avalon Park Group recently put under contract to buy along State Road 40 just west of Tiger Bay State Forest. Also shown is the site of the developer's planned 10,000-home Avalon Park Daytona Beach master-planned community on the east side of Tiger Bay. Developer Beat Kahli intends to build a 300-megawatt solar farm on a roughly 1,600-acre portion of the Woods of Ormond.

Kahli said he has partnered with "two large international partners" to purchase the Woods of Ormond Beach property, but said he was not allowed to disclose their identities.

"300 megawatts, that's a very big deal," said Bill Gallagher, the owner/president of Solar-Fit, a solar panel installation business in Holly Hill, of Avalon Park Group's planned solar farm on State Road 40.

Gallagher is a board member and past-president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association.

"I think it really makes sense right now," Gallagher said of Kahli's plans to build his own solar farm. "Florida currently gets its electric power largely from natural gas-fueled plants. That means the money's going out of the state because we're importing the natural gas.

"Solar farms allow us to create the energy right here. I think it's great all the way around," he said. "There are so many people moving to Florida. They're coming in droves and solar power is a natural for the State of Florida. Why not take advantage of it?"

Kahli said his plan is to be able to sell the electric power his solar farm generates to utility companies. That electric power could then be provided to homes and commercial businesses.

"We have the land, the contract, the ambition and the experience," he said.

Kahli. a Swiss native, said he ran a small solar farm in Malta early in his career 35 years ago to provide electric power to an island that included a hotel and bungalow village.

"It was somewhat of an adventure. Solar technology wasn't so great back then. If the weather was bad, the hot water didn't work. But the technology has improved so much," he said.

Kahli said he also plans to create a 250-acre "wetland treatment facility" at the Woods of Ormond Beach property. That could help address concerns that a number of local residents have expressed about the area's water supply as the population continues to grow, he said.

Avalon Park Group's plans for the Woods of Ormond Beach includes the creation of a 100-acre recreational park.

"The rest we would leave as wetlands and agriculture land," Kahli said of the property's remaining approximately 4,300 acres. "It's not set in stone. The wetlands treatment area could be larger or smaller. So could the recreational park. Our big focus right now is the solar farm and Avalon Park Daytona."

The land at the Woods of Ormond Beach that Kahli has under contract to buy under the name "Avalon Associates" does not include the parcel on the west side that encompasses almost two miles of Little Haw Creek.

Kahli plans to break ground some time this year on the infrastructure improvements for the 3,015-acre Avalon Park Daytona Beach community. His goal is to have the first homes ready for occupancy in 2022. The entire community likely will take 20 to 30 years to build out, he said.

Avalon Park Daytona Beach would include its own "downtown" that could have up to 1 million square feet of retail and office space.

The development site for Avalon Park Daytona Beach is along the south side of State Road 40/West Granada Boulevard, roughly one mile west of I-95, bordered by Tiger Bay State Forest on the west and the fast-growing 3,900-home Latitude Margaritaville 55-and-older community on the south.