Solar trees to add lighting to east end of HarborWalk Village in Destin

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

What’s tall and blue and has lights on top? A solar tree. 

HarborWalk Village in Destin now has two solar trees, compliments of Gulf Power. 

The trees, which stand 20 to 25 feet tall with blue trunks and big solar panels on top to light up the harborfront, are located on the east end of the village near the charter boats.  

“They’re different, that’s for sure,” said Greg Featherston, vice president of quality assurance and special projects at HarborWalk. “But I think it will help out when we get busy again with all the people.

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"The east end of the village has always been dark because there is minimal lighting," he added. "So, I think it will help everybody out, when walking behind the boats, and also the food trucks we have along there.”

The trees were installed during the past two weeks and stand 30 to 40 yards apart near the boardwalk. 

“(Gulf Power) came to us and said, ‘Hey, do you mind if we put two of these in here, and see how it works out for you?’ ” Featherston said. 

The east end is where more light was needed, so they agreed. 

As part of Florida Power & Light (FPL), Gulf Power is installing solar trees and parking canopies in areas where people can see solar technology up close and personal, according to Kimberly Blair, senior communication specialist with Gulf Power. 

“They have been very popular in FPL’s service area, and we’re excited to be working to bring them to Northwest Florida,” Blair said. 

The trees are being strategically installed in five spots in the Gulf Power service area to “bring clean energy to the heart of the local communities,” Blair said. 

“They help transform the host locations into living classrooms for people of all ages to learn about solar generation,” she added. 

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Even this week, the big blue solar trees were catching the eyes of folks as they strolled along the harbor. 

In addition to the two solar trees at HarborWalk, Gulf Power will install a solar tree at the Newman C. Brackin Wayside Park boardwalk on Okaloosa Island; two solar trees at the Main and Reus street crosswalk to the Blue Wahoo's Stadium in Pensacola; and solar canopies in the parking lots of the Corrine Jones Resource Center at Sanders Beach and at One Palafox Place in Pensacola. 

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“All of these projects are currently in different phases of development,” Blair said. 

"I think it’s going to be great,” said Brittany Byrd, director of sales and marketing at HarborWalk.

“We do get a lot of foot traffic with guests walking the whole harbor,” said Byrd, who noted the solar lights will help brighten the harborfront. 

And because it’s solar, “it will not draw any power off our systems,” Featherston said. 

Blair said Gulf Power is developing a webpage for people to access via a QR code that will be attached to each tree for people to learn more about solar projects and clean energy initiatives. 

Once the trees are operational, Featherston said the light panels might need to be adjusted as to not distract turtles that hatch along the beaches. 

“We’ll just have to see once they get them all cranked up,” he said. 

In addition to adding light and providing some shade, Blair said the solar trees might become a popular spot for “selfies” since they are located near the zipline at HarborWalk. 

“They will add to the festive environment at HarborWalk with a programmable light show,” she said. 

Gulf Power officials said they hope to have the two solar trees operational by the end of February, if not sooner.