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The Supply Side - Profile on Energy in Florida

FPL
FPL is proposing two new nuclear units at its existing Turkey Point site.

Investor-Owned Utilities

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Florida’s investor-owned utilities are building back their customer bases thanks to a growing population and higher energy use per customer after sharp declines during the economic slowdown.

» FPL’s retail sales grew 3% in the third quarter of 2010, with about 27,000 additional customers over the same period a year ago.

» Progress Energy Florida reported a 7,000 net increase in the average number of customers in the same period.

» TECO officials also reported customer growth, noting that “we have more than recovered all customers lost since the start of the housing market crisis.”

» The utilities reported that they also benefited from 2010’s record-setting winter freezes and summer heat waves, which led to record peak demand in the state.

» Total retail utility accounts in Florida dropped from 8.35 million in 2007 to 8.31 million in 2010, according to the Public Service Commission. The utilities cite the economic slowdown, the real estate bust and the credit crisis for the declining numbers. They are expected to return to the 2007 levels this year.

Natural Gas and Nuclear

Environmental and other concerns have put the kibosh on more than 4,000 megawatts of coal-fired plants planned around the state. Most new generating capacity for the immediate future will come from natural gas. Long term, the state’s utilities and regulators put their faith in nuclear power. Nearly 5,000 megawatts of new capacity are planned by Progress Energy Florida and FPL.

Progress 
Energy’s 
proposed nuclear facilities in Levy County
Progress Energy’s proposed nuclear facilities in Levy County

The companies plan to build the first new nuclear plants in Florida in 20 years in rural Levy County and Miami’s Turkey Point. However, both companies have slowed their nuclear projects amid the economic downturn. Progress Energy’s two Levy units have been delayed at least 20 months for what the company describes as regulatory holdups.

Florida's Power Sources

Lagging on Renewables

For all the news about solar and other alternatives, the state ranks 20th in the nation in its use of renewable energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, well below California, New York and Texas.

Florida's Power SourcesFlorida’s renewables capacity is just over 1,000 megawatts statewide. Here’s how that breaks down:

Thinking Locally

Florida may lag other large states in adopting alternative energy sources, but some of our cities have nationally significant alternative-energy and energy-savings programs. A few of them:

» Sarasota County has funded the largest real-time detailed energy-monitoring program in the country. A local company called Dwell Green will work with 250 homeowners and the public on evaluating device-specific energy consumption. The project is expected to ultimately generate $2 million in new business for local product and service providers that install the monitoring technology.

» Forbes magazine named Tampa one of America’s best-prepared cities for electric cars, based in part on its on its “Get Ready, Tampa Bay” program, part of a national non-profit initiative by the Rocky Mountain Institute to help cities prepare for plug-in electric vehicles. While most electric-car owners will recharge their batteries in their own garages, those living in apartments or condos may require public charging stations. Get Ready, Tampa Bay is a regional collaboration among the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, local governments, utility companies, businesses and others.

» The first solar feed-in-tariff-program in the nation, created by the city of Gainesville in 2009, sparked 500% growth of installed solar capacity in its first 18 months. Under the so-called FIT program, Gainesville Regional Utilities buys electricity generated by participants’ solar panel systems at a fixed rate for the next 20 years. The program, which is at capacity, allows for 4,000 additional kilowatt hours of capacity each year.

Sue Washer
» Lakeland Electric now gives consumers the option to have a solar hot water system installed at their home for a flat monthly fee of $34.95. Residents pay for neither the hot-water heater nor the installation.

» CLICK FOR CHART of Florida's Electric Utilities.

Shifting Political Winds

Wind Farm
Miami-based MasTec is one of the world’s biggest wind farm builders.
Last fall’s election results will shift energy policy at both the federal and state levels. The consensus is that neither cap-and-trade nor energy taxes have a chance of passing the new Congress. Meanwhile, the push for a renewable energy standard for the nation is likely to give way to a clean energy standard that includes not only renewables, but nuclear, natural gas and other traditional sources.

Florida energy interests large and small say what’s most important is that the nation and state move toward long-term energy policies instead of programs that last only a year, such as the palette of alternative-energy grant and incentive programs now coming to a close in both Washington and Tallahassee.

“This is not a one-year-at-a-time business,” says Ben Gilbert, vice president for business development at Miami-based MasTec, a $2.2-billion utility construction company that is one of the largest wind farm builders in the world. “We need to have a clear energy policy for the long term.”

Large companies such as MasTec are hoping to see renewed federal incentives such as cash grants that return 30% of capital costs to companies that complete alternative-energy projects. Smaller alternative fuels companies are working to maintain federal tax credits, such as the cellulosic ethanol producer credit set to expire at the end of 2012.

In Florida, the alternative-energy sectors that win the support of Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders will be those that strike the best balance between low costs and job creation, says Tallahassee energy lobbyist Jerry Paul of Capital Energy.

Still unknown is whether the new governor and Legislature will fall in line with investor-owned utilities that have so far managed to fend off decentralized alternative energy projects, such as a push to allow private business owners to erect their own rooftop solar projects. Maryland-based SunEdison, the largest solar provider in the nation, is building rooftop solar on more than 100 major shopping centers nationwide, generating energy for commons areas while earning revenue for leased roof space. The company is part of the impetus behind an expected “rooftop property rights” bill in the Florida Legislature this session.

Florida Biofuels Taking Root

While Florida requires a 10% ethanol blend in its gasoline, the state has no ethanol fuel plants. Our ethanol comes primarily from the Midwest, Caribbean Basin and Brazil. That could change this year, with eight ethanol plants under way or proposed statewide. Combined, they’re projected to produce about 230 million gallons a year. (The 10% blend requires about 760 million gallons.)

Florida’s eight planned ethanol plants:

» Southeastern Renewable Fuels, Hendry County: Sweet sorghum to produce 22 million gallons a year of ethanol and 30 megawatts of electricity

» Highlands EnviroFuels, Highlands County: Sweet sorghum and sugar cane to produce 30 million gallons a year

» Ineos New Planet Bioenergy, Indian River County: Waste biomass to produce 8 (up to 50) million gallons a year of ethanol and electricity

Coskata
Coskata

» Vercipia Ethanol Facility, Highlands County: “Energy cane” and forage sorghum to produce 40 million gallons a year of cellulosic ethanol

» University of Florida Ethanol Testing Facility (Buckeye site), Taylor County: 165,000 gallons of ethanol and organic acid

» Vision/FL, Osceola County: Sweet sorghum to ethanol, 30 million gallons a year and 50 megawatts of electricity

» Algenol Biofuels, Lee County: Algae to ethanol, pilot production plant, producing 300,000 gallons

» Coskata and U.S. Sugar Corp., Hendry County: Sugar cane to ethanol, 100 million gallons a year

Biodiesels

Florida is home to only one continuously operating commercial biodiesel plant, Geniune Biofuels. But at least three other biodiesel operations are slated to begin production this year, spurred in part by new biodiesel standards set by the EPA. Combined, they would produce an estimated 40 million gallons a year.

Company executives and their supporters hope to drive a bill through this year’s Legislature that would offer credits and incentives to school districts to convert their school bus fleets to biodiesel.

Florida’s biodiesel plants

» Genuine Biofuels, Martin County: 6 million gallons a year (currently producing; waste vegetable oil)

» SmartFuels, Lake County: 2.74 million gallons a year (not producing; waste vegetable oil)

» Agri-Source Fuels, Dade City, Pasco County: 12 million gallons a year up to 60 (limited production; animal fats and plant oils)

» Purada Processing, now Clean Fuel Lakeland, Polk County: 18.25 million gallons a year (not producing; vegetable oil/animal feedstock)



Beyond Biofuels

Matias Kirst
UF plant geneticist Matias Kirst is working on converting poplar into fuel.
Other companies expected to generate alternative-energy news in 2011:

» In Jacksonville, French battery manufacturer Saft is on track to complete its new plant at Cecil Commerce Center and begin production in the third quarter with a 40-person line. The plant will produce lithium-ion batteries for solar and wind power storage, one of the key requirements for expanding renewable energy into power grids.

» Cyclone Power Technologies of Pompano Beach is expected to begin limited production of its patented small-scale waste oil power generator in the first or second quarter, with more widespread production later this year. Called the “Phoenix 10,” developers say the system could allow car-repair and lube shops around the world to recycle their waste oil in a way that’s environmentally friendly and generates energy. Company executives say a typical lube shop could produce 10 kilowatts an hour, perhaps 10% to 20% of a shop’s electricity needs. Just as important, the technology would save companies waste-oil disposal fees and help keep oil contamination out of our water supply.

» Brevard County’s Advanced Magnet Lab has been around since 1995, creating technologies for the design and manufacture of advanced coils and magnets for the medical, defense and research industries. Now, subsidiary AML Energy is developing next-generation large wind turbine generators and high-efficiency power transmission systems

School Notes

Alternative energy research news from Florida’s universities:

» Poplar Alternative — University of Florida plant geneticist Matias Kirst is working on what scientists consider one of the most promising alternatives to corn ethanol — fuel derived from poplar trees. Kirst has an $873,000, five-year grant for the work; he was the only researcher in Florida to land the U.S. Department of Energy special funding designed to “bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years.” Kirst uses a technique called “association mapping,” which compares different poplar trees to find out which genes contribute to those properties most important to bioenergy production. Eventually, Kirst and colleagues hope to create the ideal poplar for cellulosic ethanol.

» Ocean Energy — The U.S. Department of Energy recently designated Florida Atlantic University as a national center for ocean energy research and development. The new Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center at FAU joins centers in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii working on readiness for ocean-energy technologies including currents and thermal energy. FAU researchers have already developed a potential turbine for the Gulf Stream. At this point, they’re working on ocean-current observation systems to monitor the potential promise and effects, such as environmental impacts, of that and other technologies. The center will ultimately field test prototype devices on behalf of the Department of Energy.



Ian Winger and Sean Barton
Ian Winger (left) and Sean Barton hope to take their “solar sausage” to market in 2011.
» Solar Sausage — A team of scientists at Florida State University has come up with an inflatable solar-energy collector that costs 1/20th and weighs 1/50th of a traditional system. Traditional solar-concentration systems involve heavy parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight on fragile, vacuum-sealed tubes, all expensive and difficult to maintain and clean. FSU’s transparent, cylinder-shaped membrane can produce temperatures of more than 750 degrees in just a few minutes in the sun. Inventors Ian Winger and Sean Barton call it the “solar sausage” and hope to commercialize it this year.