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April 23, 2018

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? MUNICIPAL UTILITIES: Going for the Green

“One of the most interesting developments is that our municipal utilities in Florida have started to innovate,” says Jerry Karnas, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Florida Climate Project and a member of the Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change, “and that is capturing the attention of the whole world.”

Among the most “groundbreaking” developments, Karnas suggests, is taking place in north central Florida where the Gainesville Regional Utility recently became the first municipal supplier in the United States to implement a “solar feed tariff.” Essentially, this means the utility will purchase the excess electricity produced by solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses, then sell it back to the community.

Solar initiatives taking off:

» Lakeland
This central Florida city is under contract with Beltsville, Md.-based Sun Edison to build an $80-million, 24-megawatt solar electric system.

» Orlando
The Southeast’s largest rooftop solar photovoltaic system — $7 million worth of solar panels atop the Orange County Convention Center — is expected to generate 1 million watts of power. No wonder the U.S. Department of Energy has named Orlando “a top 25 solar city.”

Solar Entrepreneurs at Work

The rise of solar power in Florida is good news for Florida entrepreneurs like Bill Johnson in Sarasota. Johnson’s company, Brilliant Harvest, is an energy “integrator,” aimed at helping clients — non-profits in particular — navigate the minefield of government regulations and maximize government energy initiatives to lower their power consumption.

Other Florida companies are gearing up to produce solar hardware:

» Advanced Solar Photonics in Lake Mary expects to hire 1,500 new workers in the next two years to manufacture solar panels.

» In Gainesville, entrepreneurs at Sestar, a local startup with help from researchers at the University of Florida, hopes to manufacture and market artificial turf laced with photovoltaic solar cells that produce electricity.

Miami Smart Grid

A proposed “Energy Smart Initiative,” which could put more than 1 million “smart meters” in Miami-Dade homes and businesses, would give power users more control over their electricity consumption. FPL, Cisco, General Electric and Silver Spring Networks have joined forces with the city of Miami for what could become the platform for an anticipated $700-million statewide smart power grid, and perhaps a model for the nation.

? Energy Alternatives

WIND — Pensacola-based Gulf Power is conducting wind studies at Navarre Beach in Santa Rosa County to determine the feasibility of wind-turbine electric power.

OCEAN CURRENTS — Researchers at Florida Atlantic University are gathering data in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Dania Beach in the hopes of harnessing the power of the Gulf Stream to generate clean energy.

BIOFUELS — Sugar producer Florida Crystals Corporation uses sugar cane waste to fuel its refinery in Okeelanta. Elsewhere in Florida, energy experts are using wood chips, citrus waste, algae and other natural materials to produce power. Gulf Power recently concluded a deal with Escambia County to make electricity at the Perdido Landfill northwest of Pensacola; the process uses the methane gas formed underneath the landfill to boil water and make the steam that drives an electricity-producing turbine. Gulf Power also buys electricity generated by an incinerator that burns garbage at the Bay County Landfill.

Tags: Energy & Utilities, Business Florida

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