Library filed under Energy Policy from Florida
Gov. Crist has committed the state to developing "green" energy that doesn't harm the environment. Now, he must direct state agencies, especially the Department of Environmental Protection, to stop approving little-tested technologies without setting standards. ...Last week, the state correctly backed off a hasty push to approve Florida Power & Light Co.'s request to build three, 40-story wind turbines on St. Lucie County public beaches. Even a planned April meeting is too soon to reconsider. FPL already plans six wind turbines on its own land. FPL has a booming wind business in other states, where turbines are inland, but little experience with coastal turbines.
"This is a test. This is only a test ..." The test I refer to involves FPL, its push for electricity-producing wind turbines on public land next to its nuclear plant, and the way government played along at first but now appears splintered. We have three players in this drama: the county, the state and, of course, FPL. Watching the trio dance, occasionally stepping on each other's toes, has been intriguing.
Florida Power & Light, the state's largest utility, wants to build a line of nine wind turbines, each more than 400 feet tall, along an Atlantic Ocean beach. ...But a coalition of environmental groups - including Audubon of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and 1,000 Friends of Florida - have sent state officials a letter questioning whether the windmills will kill migrating birds and objecting to using conservation land for an industrial use. "While there are obvious benefits to considering the feasibility of wind in Florida," they wrote, "the benefits of the project do not warrant the significant wildlife impacts and bad conservation lands precedent that could result from this easement request."
Our parks should remain quiet preserves; Kennedy Space Center's security shouldn't be compromised. Even our landfills should be off limits to FPL. Private industries have no right to generate profits on public property that only their shareholders will enjoy. Solar power is local by nature. It's time for municipalities to get behind start-up companies that can keep energy dollars circulating within their community and get FPL off public assistance.
Facing the possibility of two commissioners withdrawing support for its wind turbines, Florida Power & Light Co. pulled out of a planned state meeting set for today. The decision came after commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to send a letter to the state Acquisition and Restoration Council, which oversees the use of public land, telling them they shouldn't consider the turbine proposal until the county has weighed in. FPL is seeking to place six turbines on its own land on Hutchinson Island and another three on state owned land at Blind Creek Park that is leased by the county.
St. Lucie County commissioners' support for Florida Power & Light Co.'s push to build wind turbines on public land appeared to cool during a daylong debate Tuesday. But commissioners did not vote to endorse or oppose FPL's plan to build nine electricity-producing turbines on Hutchinson Island - six on company property and three on state land managed by the county. Instead, they decided to ask the state to delay a public hearing scheduled for Thursday in Tallahassee before a state committee that will hear FPL's request to lease the Blind Creek property needed for the three turbines. They weren't optimistic that the hearing would be put off before the Acquisition and Restoration Council, an advisory committee with representatives of several state agencies.
Several commissioners asked Florida Power & Light Co. Tuesday not to present information to the state about its wind turbine project until the county weighs in on it. The company wants to place six turbines on property its own at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant and three on state-owned land at Blind Creek Park that is leased by the county. The Acquisition and Restoration Council, a state agency affiliated with the Department of Environmental Protection that oversees the use of public conservation lands and makes recommendations on new lands for purchase, will discuss the project Thursday in Tallahassee and make a decision regarding it Friday. ...County Attorney Dan McIntyre said state officials told him there was "direction from above" to keep the turbines on the state agenda, but he thought the county should have its say before the state. McIntyre also said he didn't think having the turbines on a day agenda was the right way to go.
A decision on whether St. Lucie County commissioners want wind turbines on South Hutchinson Island could come Tuesday because state officials would like an answer later in the week. A state advisory committee known as the Acquisition and Restoration Council will hold a public hearing Thursday and vote Friday in Tallahassee on whether Florida Power & Light Co. should be allowed to use 6.3 acres in Blind Creek Park just north of the nuclear power plant. ...County Attorney Dan McIntyre has recommended the county oppose use of Blind Creek property because $3.6 million from a voter-approved bond issue helped buy the land. The ballot approved by 67 percent of the voters said the money should be used to protect environmentally significant land and wildlife habitat. ..."I'm disappointed we didn't get more advance notice so the public would have more opportunity to speak," Coward said. "It's unconscionable and now we have to add it to our agenda at the last minute."
Throughout the year, utility regulators held meetings on how to increase the amount of energy the state gets from renewable sources. "When you look at the need the state has, we have a growing energy demand, and we need to balance how we meet that demand with cost, energy security, energy diversification ... a number of things we've done over the past two years puts us in a better place," said Lisa Edgar, outgoing chairwoman of the five-member PSC. "It's certainly been an exciting year for energy issues, and I think the commission has done good work." And on the final day of the year Monday, state legislators will get a list of recommendations from the Florida Energy Commission to take up during the legislative session. "This was really a historical year for Florida. How do we continue the momentum?" Smith said. "There are a lot of folks that can be obstructionist to where the governor goes - the state legislature and the utilities are going to be big players in that.
The Florida Public Service Commission demands that electrical utilities provide reliable power at reasonable rates. Despite this mandate, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a series of executive orders requiring utility companies to begin work by Sept. 1 towards generating at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources with an emphasis on solar and wind energy. Although well-intentioned, these executive orders were apparently signed without considering that Florida does not have high-intensity sunlight as found in low-humidity deserts and lacks sufficient wind energy to make wind turbines feasible.
Driscoll said the ocean energy has the potential to supply the world's energy demands thousands of times over, significantly reducing greenhouse gases within 10 years, and long-term, creating thousands of jobs for a highly skilled work force, changing the state from an energy importer to energy exporter. Research must still be done to determine the impact on sea life, he added.
Gov. Charlie Crist's push to be green could mean more nuclear plants in Florida. The word "nuclear" does not appear in any of the three executive orders Crist signed at the close of his global warming summit Friday ordering tighter vehicle emission standards and a reduction of greenhouse gases. But he, as well as power utilities, are planning for more nuclear energy in the future. And the sweeping greenhouse gas reductions Crist embraced this week may solidify more nuclear power as a cornerstone of Florida's energy policy.
Six of the nation's 10 largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions are coal-fired power plants in the South, but year after year Southern lawmakers balk at pushing utilities toward cleaner renewable energy. Last month, Republican senators from the South provided about half the votes that defeated federal legislation to require power companies to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Nationally, almost half the states have adopted their own renewable mandates, but only one, Texas, is in the South. Southern lawmakers -- responding to heavy lobbying from local utilities -- argue their region isn't conducive to solar or wind power like the sun-baked Southwest or the open plains of the West.
Florida will adopt California's car-pollution standards -- the toughest in the nation -- and become the first state in the Southeast to enact targets for reducing greenhouse gases, under executive orders Gov. Charlie Crist plans to sign Friday in Miami. Drafts of the orders released Tuesday would require the state Secretary of Environmental Protection to immediately adopt rules to limit pollution-causing emissions for cars, diesel engines and electric companies. The orders also impose tough new energy conservation goals for state agencies, demand better fuel efficiency from state-owned vehicles and require state cars to ``use ethanol and biodiesel fuels when locally available.'' But the most optimistic step in Crist's green agenda is the requirement to lower the amount of carbon dioxide in the air to 1990 levels by 2025, and reduce those levels by 80 percent by 2050, in spite of what is expected to be a near doubling of the state's population.
Some call it a carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels, but others point to significant environmental costs. In Kansas, where winds blow strong, the push for clean energy includes not only new wind turbines but also new nuclear-power plants as part of a "carbon-free" solution to climate change. It's an idea that may be catching on. At least 11 new nuclear plants are in the design stage in nine states, including Virginia, Texas, and Florida, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute website. But that carbon-free pitch has researchers asking anew: How carbon-free is nuclear power? And how cost-effective is it in the fight to slow global warming? "Saying nuclear is carbon-free is not true," says Uwe Fritsche, a researcher at the Öko Institut in Darmstadt, Germany, who has conducted a life-cycle analysis of the plants. "It's less carbon-intensive than fossil fuel. But if you are honest, scientifically speaking, the truth is: There is no carbon-free energy. There's no free lunch."
A doctor, a utility board member, a health-care executive and a state lawmaker are among the nine people who will help decide the way Florida gets, produces and uses its energy for the next several decades. They are members of the new Florida Energy Commission, which was created as part of a major energy law passed by state lawmakers this year that is designed to lessen the state's dependence on expensive natural gas and foreign oil. Among other things, the group is charged with figuring out how the state should best develop and use renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind and biomass. The commission also must decide how to increase the safety and construction standards for utility lines and poles so they can better withstand hurricanes.
The bill would cut red tape for utilities seeking sites for new power plants and lines, provide grants for renewable energy development and offer limited tax incentives for solar energy devices, hydrogen powered vehicles and a pair of alternative fuels, biodiesel and ethanol.