A solar ring and retractable roof will soon hang above a premier Miami concert venue

A rendering of the solar ring and retractable cover that Florida Power & Light will place over the Bayfront Park Amphitheater. The image was presented to the Bayfront Park Management Trust in June.
A rendering of the solar ring and retractable cover that Florida Power & Light will place over the Bayfront Park Amphitheater. The image was presented to the Bayfront Park Management Trust in June.

The amphitheater at Bayfront Park, one of Miami’s signature performing arts venues downtown, will soon get a halo-like ring of solar panels and a retractable roof.

On July  the Miami City Commission gave approval for a no-bid contract to Florida Power & Light for the project, which is expected to be finished in time for Super Bowl festivities in early 2020.

“This is going to be an iconic structure for the city,” Mayor Francis Suarez said at Thursday’s meeting.

Under the proposed contract terms, which are still being finalized, the city would not pay anything to build or install the structure. That would be Florida Power & Light’s responsibility. The quasi-public Bayfront Park Management Trust would pay for operation of the retractable roof and routine maintenance, for which it has set aside $40,000 per year.

FPL says the solar ring will be one of the largest urban solar projects in the country. But it won’t be a moneymaker for the city. The proposed contract says FPL would pay a $10 annual license fee, and the power generated would go into FPL’s grid.

Still, officials said the project would be both educational and symbolic of the city’s support for green energy.

“The installation of the [solar ring] will pique the curiosity of the City’s residents and visitors of all ages, encouraging discussion about sustainability and inspiring them to learn more about the benefits of solar energy,” Annie Perez, the city’s procurement director, wrote in a memo recommending that City Manager Emilio Gonzalez waive competitive bidding requirements.

The retractable roof would also allow concerts and other events at Klipsch Amphitheater to be held when it’s raining. Bayfront Park is expected to host more events than any other venue in the week leading up to the Feb. 2, 2020, Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, spoke at Thursday’s meeting, calling the project a “tremendous opportunity” and saying it will leave a “lasting gift” for the city.

It was not immediately clear whether the host committee would contribute financially to the effort. A spokesman for Barreto, Bradley Gerber, told the Miami Herald those details would be revealed at a future event.

Alys Daly, a spokeswoman for FPL, said it’s too early to estimate the overall cost of the project. The proposed length of the city’s contract with FPL is 25 years.

In addition to the solar ring above the amphitheater, FPL plans to install a large canopy of solar panels to provide shade next to the venue, as well as seven “solar trees” nearby. All told, FPL estimates there will be nearly 1,700 new solar panels at Bayfront Park generating about 500 kilowatts of energy for the grid.

Solar trees will also soon be sprouting in parks around the city, another result of FPL’s push to invest in solar. The commission on Thursday gave the green light for installation of the curved pole structures in several parks in Commissioner Manolo Reyes’ District 4, including Bay of Pigs Memorial Park, West End Park and Coral Gate Park.

The city will receive slightly more in licensing fees for the solar trees than for the amphitheater — $50 per kilowatt, with a 2-percent annual increase over the 15-year contract. FPL project manager Kathleen Campanella told commissioners that would likely come to $1,000 to $1,500 per year for the city.

Parks in other districts could get solar trees if their commissioners express an interest. At least some would feature charging stations for electronic devices.

“It gives folks in the community an opportunity to interact with solar in ways they haven’t been able to before,” Campanella said.

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 10.27.28 AM.pngA rendering of a solar tree in Bay of Pigs Park. The Miami City Commission has given Florida Power & Light the go-ahead to install solar trees in several parks around the city.Florida Power & Light

Details of both the solar tree contract and the amphitheater contract were still being hammered out. Mayor Suarez said liability terms were among the points being discussed.

But District 3 Commissioner Joe Carollo, chairman of the Bayfront Park Management Trust, urged the commission to act Thursday — before the body’s August recess — so the amphitheater project could get started as soon as possible.

The construction period is currently set at 18 months with an option for a six-month extension. The 2020 Super Bowl is almost exactly 18 months away.

“To get it done before the Super Bowl, time is running out,” Carollo said.