Wind Energy For Florida

By Kathy Panko, Environmental Issues Group

wind energyLike solar, wind energy is the fastest growing energy source in the world, with the United States targeting to produce 20% of its electricity by wind power by 2030. There is no doubt that wind energy is going to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas in the coming decade, but to what extent can only be speculated.  Wind power is renewable and a clean source of energy that does not generate greenhouse gases, it uses no water resources and creates no waste by-products.  Wind doesn’t cost anything therefore operational costs are close to zero – once a turbine starts running.

Unfortunately, there are obstacles for wind development in Florida.  The state lacks steady, high quality onshore winds.  The wind doesn’t blow hard enough or often enough to support wind farms.  The option of building wind turbines offshore, where the wind is greater, presents even more challenges with construction in the ocean and the cost of maintenance due to sea-spray.  Oceans are considered federal public lands and the permitting process is complex and lengthy.  However, the US Department of Energy has determined that the emerging generation of taller wind turbines could enable Florida to take advantage of high-altitude wind resources.

NextEra Energy Resources, part of the FPL group, is located in Juno Beach and one of the world’s largest generators of wind power.  They operate more than 115 wind projects in twenty states and Canada.  They have proposed building nine turbines in St. Lucie County. Six are being proposed for FPL land adjacent to the St Lucie nuclear plant and the other three have been proposed for three acres in Blind Creek. The turbines will be 394 feet tall and each can produce 2.3 megawatts of power (1 MW powers about 300 customers).  Although this seems like a small project, with the improvements in wind technology, this would generate as much energy as a wind farm containing 110 turbines using older technology. The proposed project, if constructed, will prevent more than 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering the air each year. That is equivalent to avoiding emissions from nearly 6,000 cars per year.

Wind power has been an uphill battle for Florida.  Gulf Power, serving NW Florida, took a different approach by purchasing electricity from the Kingfisher Wind Plant in wind-rich Oklahoma.  They bought the output of 89 turbines, or enough to supply nearly 51,000 homes.

At this point in time, the future of wind power in Florida is uncertain.  An update will be published by the end of the year.

Sources:

CEF (Conserve Energy Future.com), Clean Technica , June 28, 2016

FPL.com   Clean Energy

Scientific American, December 2016

NextEra Energy Resources.com, January 1, 2017