FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business


Mega-state, Mega-opportunities


The Florida Everglades is both a tourist attraction and a source of fresh water for many south Florida communities. [Photo courtesy of Visit Florida]

The steady influx of nearly 1,000 new residents per day gives Florida a unique opportunity to model for other states the best response to 21st century infrastructure challenges.

“Florida is providing the moral leadership needed to preserve our state’s beautiful natural environment,” says Gov. Charlie Crist. To that end, he has charged his newly created Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change with developing a strategy to achieve specific targets for statewide greenhouse gas reductions.

Initially, the action team will make recommendations on Florida’s energy policy, including legislative initiatives to enhance energy and conservation and strategies to diversify the fuels used to generate electricity. The team will next address the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on public health, the economy and the environment with an eye to generating strategic investments and public-private partnerships to spur economic development around climate-friendly industries.

Many of Florida’s entrepreneurs, lawmakers, activists and researchers are already working toward these goals.

Energy Sector

With power demands expected to rise by 25-30% over the next decade, Florida’s electric utilities are making improvements to existing plants and spending $1.7 billion statewide to add 1,109 miles of transmission lines.

Conservation is also on the table. Progress Energy Florida president and CEO Jeff Lyash reports that efficiency projects over the last 25 years have eliminated “7 million tons of carbon dioxide from the environment and have saved customers nearly $825 million

Power to the People
Florida’s Energy Providers

18 Rural electric cooperatives

5 Investor-owned electric companies

34Municipally owned electric utilities

A diversity of fuels and energy sources is meeting Florida’s needs:

Coal

  • Atlanta-based Southern Company, along with the Orlando Utilities Commission and the engineering/construction firm KBR, is currently building a $569-million, 285-megawatt coal-fired coal-gasification plant in Orlando.

  • In Polk County, Tampa Electric Company (TECO) uses an Integrated Gas Combination Cycle unit to gasify and purify coal for generating 250 megawatts of electricity for 75,000 customers. Another unit, planned for 2013, will provide an additional 630 megawatts. Says plant manager Mark Hornick, “There is zero visible stack emission, and other pollutants are at low amounts.” The technology is already in place to remove as much as 90% of the CO2.
Natural Gas
  • Southern Natural Gas Company (SNG), a subsidiary of El Paso Corporation, recently completed Phase I of its Cypress Pipeline project. The company’s new 167-mile pipeline now delivers liquefied natural gas (LNG) from storage tanks at Elba Island near Savannah, Ga., to Jacksonville, where it connects with the Houston-based Florida Gas Transmission System. Phases II and III of the project will increase compression on the pipeline and are slated for completion by 2010.

  • Calypso LNG, LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based SUEZ Energy North America, is constructing a buoy system 10 miles offshore of Port Everglades in southeast Florida as a delivery point for LNG supplied by special ships.

  • Tampa-based Gulfstream Natural Gas System is expanding its existing 69-mile pipeline in Florida.

  • Falcon Gas Storage, also out of Houston, plans to construct a new natural gas storage hub in southern Alabama to boost pipeline gas deliveries to Florida and other southern states.

ENERGY - Alternatives for the future

  • Hopes are high that a $425-million facility built by Atlanta-based Geoplasma could make St. Lucie the first county in the nation to use plasma arcs to transform landfill garbage into electricity.

  • Petroalgae, part of XL Tech Group, a Melbourne, Florida-based company, is developing commercially viable technologies to grow and harvest oil from algae.

  • Research is under way in Boca Raton at Florida Atlantic University’s Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology to explore ways to generate energy using the Gulf Stream ocean currents that lie just off the Florida coast.

  • Tallahassee will soon become the first city in the country to generate electricity from wood waste thanks to the city council’s approval for the building of a $90-million gasification plant by Atlanta-based alternative energy producer Biomass Gas & Electric Company.

Bio-Fuels

  • The Port Sutton Envirofuels Company is poised to build Florida’s first ethanol-from-corn plant in Tampa. Other fuels made from citrus trees or sugar cane forestry waste also are under consideration.

  • State legislators awarded $20 million to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to establish a research facility for creating a commercial grade of ethanol from woody parts of plants.

  • Gainesville’s city commission has rejected a new coal burning power plant, and instead is considering various forms of biomass fuels.

  • A new crop-fueled power plant under consideration for the Lake Okeechobee area could be up and running in 2008 and generating electricity for 83,000 Progress Energy customers.

Solar

  • Florida Power & Light (FP&L) — the state’s largest investor-owned utility — is building a 250-kilowatt solar plant in Sarasota and also is exploring a wind-powered project in St. Lucie County.

  • Tampa Bay’s Middleton High School boasts a 10,500-watt, 60-pane solar panel array, the largest for any educational center in Florida. Instructors will use it to teach students about solar energy, and the system can also be used to provide supplementary power for the Red Cross emergency shelter located on the school campus.

  • The University of Central Florida’s Solar Energy Center has partnered with builders to construct prototypical “zero-energy” homes in Lakeland and New Smyrna Beach that utilize the sun to power energy-saving appliances and heating/cooling systems. The University of West Florida is also constructing a home that is both energy efficient and hurricane resistant. “Florida is moving in the right direction in solar power and just getting started,” says Dr. James Fenton, director of the Solar Energy Center. “We could be the leader in solar energy, and why not? After all, we are the Sunshine State.”

Turkey Point, operated by Florida Power & Light, is one of three nuclear power plants in Florida. [Photo courtesy of Florida Power & Light Company]

Nuclear

  • Florida has three nuclear plants and may get two more. FP&L is considering the construction of a plant next to an existing nuclear facility on Turkey Point south of Miami. And Progress Energy Florida is laying the groundwork for a possible nuclear facility in Levy County in Florida’s North Central region.

Water

In addition to five water management boards, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Public Service Commission — all of which have a hand in setting water policy and managing water supplies — several other entities, both public and private, are joining the effort to keep Florida’s water infrastructure healthy and strong.

  • In Sarasota County, a combinaton of “green” building codes and conservation has dropped daily water consumption from 148 to 88 gallons — a 40% reduction.

  • At the University of Florida Water Institute, 168 faculty members from 50 academic disciplines are “pooling” their expertise to improve water management policy and methodologies. “Our goal is to make Florida’s water management a model for the nation and the world,” says the Institute’s director Dr. Wendy Graham.

  • Legislation passed in 2005 for a funding package that, if approved annually, could provide up to $1.1 billion over 10 years for water-related projects, such as the creation of alternative water supplies, solutions to waste water and pollution problems and programs for water reuse and conservation.

Telecommunications


“Florida has a robust competitive market in telecommunications.”

Dr. Mark Jamison
Public Utility Research Center

While Florida’s growing demand for communi-cations systems puts a strain on energy supplies, it also broadens the telecommunications options available to businesses. “Because of its high-density population, a diverse level of business activity and a wide choice of wireless providers, Florida has a robust competitive market in telecommunications,” says Dr. Mark Jamison, director of the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida.

It’s also a changing market. Both the state’s 10 incumbent local exchange companies (ILECs) and the 396 competitive local exchange companies (CLECs) saw a dip in their residential access land lines and residential market shares in 2006. Part of the decline can be attributed to regulatory changes that make it easier to bundle telecommunications services in Florida. But the drop in the number of land lines also reflects a modest shift toward wireless and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers statewide.



Trends: Telecom

  • Florida has approximately 12.5 million wireless subscribers, according to the Florida Public Service Commission’s latest report.

  • Forbes.com picked Orlando as the nation’s 2nd best place in “broadband adoption” based on public wireless Internet access and number of users with high-speed connections.

  • Sprint Nextel has spent nearly $530 million in 2006—2007 to boost its statewide mobile wireless network with new cell sites and other enhancements.

  • Verizon will spend $500 million through 2010 to expand its existing fiber optics network in Florida; so far, the company has also invested $1.5 billion on its wireless system.

  • AT&T, Verizon, Cox Cable and Bright House continue to bundle communication services in Florida. EMBARQ, a spinoff from Sprint Nextel, is integrating its wireline and wireless services so customers can easily move between the two for voice, long-distance, wireless and high-speed data transmission.

Hurricane Readiness

Florida’s utilities continue “hardening” their equipment in an effort to minimize the impact of possible land-falling storms on the lives of business owners and residents.

  • Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company serving Florida’s Northwest region, has installed a state-of-the-art underground delivery system at Pensacola Beach. The new system includes power lines housed in concrete ducts, stainless steel equipment resistant to corrosion and underground switches sealed in concrete enclosures.

  • FP&L reports that it will likely spend up to $205 million on hurricane hardening of equipment and delivery systems to better serve its 44 million customers.

  • Progress Energy Florida is investing $91 million to storm harden and maintain its system, plus another $25 million to keep vegetation cut away from power lines; an additional $8 million will be spent replacing 500 wooden power poles with steel poles.

  • TECO is replacing poles and beefing up substation maintenance; the company has also increased the size of its Trouble
    Department by 15% to clear vegetation near power lines.

Telecommunications companies are taking pre-storm actions, too.

  • Sprint recently invested $115 million in Florida’s coastal areas to install extra generators and portable “cell-wheels” to protect the company’s wireless sites and network facilities.

  • EMBARQ has added $10 million to its expenditures during the past two years to replace equipment destroyed or damaged by recent hurricanes.