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Winds of Change: Florida Power & Light Explores The Possibility of Wind-Generated Energy Near The Coastline

After years of saying Florida is not a good spot for wind-generated energy, Florida Power & Light is searching for a place to set up an experimental wind-turbine field.

''We want to pursue every bit of renewable energy resource we can for our customers,'' said FPL spokeswoman Rachel Scott.

A sister company, the unregulated FPL Energy, has long been the No. 1 producer of wind energy in America, with 47 wind farms in 15 states.

Florida, though, does not have the strong steady winds needed for consistent production of power, FPL has maintained. The company still believes that and says wind will not provide a huge amount of power in any case.

But public opinion, regulatory pressures and soaring oil and gas prices have caused the utility to explore at least the possibility of wind.

''We are facing so much growth and such a huge demand for electricity that we need to look at all possibilities,'' Scott said. The Public Service Commission has also asked -- but not demanded -- that power companies look at diverse types of energy.

FPL also is pursuing a new coal plant, if it can find a location, because coal costs are considerably lower than the natural gas used at many of FPL's current facilities. The company has also announced it will consider developing a new nuclear site.

The stakes are high. According to the website of the Edison Electric Institute, the cost... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

''We want to pursue every bit of renewable energy resource we can for our customers,'' said FPL spokeswoman Rachel Scott.

A sister company, the unregulated FPL Energy, has long been the No. 1 producer of wind energy in America, with 47 wind farms in 15 states.

Florida, though, does not have the strong steady winds needed for consistent production of power, FPL has maintained. The company still believes that and says wind will not provide a huge amount of power in any case.

But public opinion, regulatory pressures and soaring oil and gas prices have caused the utility to explore at least the possibility of wind.

''We are facing so much growth and such a huge demand for electricity that we need to look at all possibilities,'' Scott said. The Public Service Commission has also asked -- but not demanded -- that power companies look at diverse types of energy.

FPL also is pursuing a new coal plant, if it can find a location, because coal costs are considerably lower than the natural gas used at many of FPL's current facilities. The company has also announced it will consider developing a new nuclear site.

The stakes are high. According to the website of the Edison Electric Institute, the cost of coal power is 3.5 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. For natural gas, it's 5 to 6 cents; for nuclear, it's 5.5 to 6.5; for wind, it's 4 to 5; for solar, it's ``roughly 20 cents.''

These figures are for new plants. Once a plant is up and running, the costs for each additional hour of power are much different. For wind, they are almost zero. For nuclear, they are much lower than natural gas.

Because Florida winds are strongest along the coastline, FPL wants a site near the coast, but not on the coast, that would have room for five wind turbines.

The turbines wouldn't require a huge amount of space: The base could be 14 x 16 feet, but spokeswoman Pat Davis said they would have to be spaced about 1,000 feet apart.

They would tower above surrounding structures -- reaching more than 400 feet high, which includes the top of the 155-foot blades.

Because of these size issues, FPL is not seeking to put them directly on the coast, where neighborhoods tend to be affluent and not accepting of commercial intrusions.

''You have to have community acceptance,'' Scott said. The company's government affairs specialists have investigating sites near the Gulf or Atlantic coasts ``to see if there is a receptivity for this type of project.''

One prime possibility is near Daytona Beach.

''Right now we're conducting studies of wind patterns,'' said Scott, and the company is looking at ``new wind turbine designs for especially low-wind environments.''

Rebecca Carter, who operates an environmental blog, greenermiami.com, welcomed the project. ``From what I know, I have a very positive view of wind farms. They're quiet and not really obtrusive. I'd like to see all sorts of programs for alternative energy resources.''

Even if FPL finds a way for wind to work in Florida, it will not eliminate the need for other kinds of new plants because wind simply doesn't generate large amounts of consistent power.

In the water off Long Island, N.Y., for example, FPL Energy is proposing a wind field of 52-nautical square miles that might produce 140 megawatts of power.

In Wisconsin, FPL Energy has a wind farm of 3,200 acres that generates 30 megawatts. Contrast that with the St. Lucie nuclear plant, which produces more than 1,500 megawatts and takes up 1,130 acres.

Steve Stengel, spokesman for FPL Energy, said it's difficult, if not impossible, to compare wind with other forms of energy. Coal and nuclear, for example, provide ''a steady source of power,'' whereas wind, by its very nature, ``is an intermittent resource.''

On the Gulf Coast, FPL is preparing to start a small solar experiment near Sarasota that will be about the equivalent of one-sixth the power of a single wind turbine. The project is funded by FPL customers who agree to pay more through the Sunshine Energy Program.

Carter said she and many other environmentalists would like to see a policy allowing homeowners with solar panels to sell excess power to FPL.

Davis of FPL said there is already a state regulatory rule about FPL buying such power -- or giving homeowners a credit on their electric bill. ``But there's a lot of insurance required, which can make it cost-prohibitive.''

jdorschner@MiamiHerald.com

 


Source: http://www.miami.com/mld/mi...

JUL 6 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3357-winds-of-change-florida-power-light-explores-the-possibility-of-wind-generated-energy-near-the-coastline
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