Infrastructure: Growing Stronger and Greener
Florida’s balanced approach meets today’s energy demands with an eye on tomorrow’s needs.
- Florida’s “Consumer Choice Act of 2007” has changed the pay-TV franchise process by permitting telephone companies to petition the state rather than local governments to obtain cable TV and Internet services franchises. This means more competition for cable companies and new opportunities for telecoms. AT&T Florida alone is expending $750 million on improvements to its communications infrastructure throughout the state, including the new “U-verse” TV and high-speed Internet service.
- Verizon, which invested $836.9 million in plants and equipment in Florida in 2006, including investments in its fiber-to-the-premises initiative, hopes to merge with Alltel Wireless. If regulators agree to the merger, Verizon’s reach will stretch from the Tampa Bay area into the Florida Panhandle.
- The Florida Public Service Commission is studying a proposal that would allow a more “level playing field” for interactions between traditional telephone companies and their wireless and cable TV competitors.
This compact unit can make 20 gallons of clean water a day, says AquaVentus CEO Michael Max. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
- In June 2008, the state of Florida announced its intention to buy 187,000 acres of agricultural land owned by U.S. Sugar Corporation in the state’s South Central region for $1.75 billion. Aimed at restoring the natural flow of water to the Everglades, this historic development should allow water managers to better clean and store water for Florida’s future needs.
- Tampa Bay’s desalination plant — the largest in the U.S. — has begun pumping 25 million gallons of drinking water to more than 2.4 million customers. Florida’s water managers envision additional “desal” plants to meet growing water demands.
- St. Petersburg-based AquaVentus has devised a way to make water from air. The company’s compact refrigeration unit — the size of a large cooler and powered by electricity, a generator or the sun — makes 20 gallons of clean, drinkable water a day by wringing the humidity out of air. AquaVentus plans to begin selling the units in 2009.
Keeping Systems Secure
Florida’s Public Service Commission takes a proactive approach to keeping this state’s infrastructure secure and operational in the face of climate change uncertainties and possible hurricanes. Utilities and telecommunications providers are required by the PSC to perpetually “harden” their systems in order to minimize potentially adverse impacts on business owners and residents.
For energy providers, these efforts include more wind-resistant equipment, the clearing of vegetation and enhanced backup and emergency services, especially for hospitals, nursing homes and military bases. On the telecom side, portable generators and fleets of “mobile cell sites on wheels” are at the ready for activation as soon as storms pass.
This level of preparedness does not come without a price, of course. In 2007, Sprint invested $59 million to get ready in the coastal areas it serves. Likewise, Verizon invested more that $150 million in 2007 to strengthen its Florida network, including approximately $20 million to enhance its Tampa Bay switching facility, which, the company says, is designed to hold up in a Category 5 hurricane. FP&L has spent more than $158 million since 2006 replacing thousands of power poles, trimming trees along 22,859 miles of power lines and upgrading substations throughout its statewide system.