Wind Energy in Florida

Monday, April 8, 2013

by Rae Mcsween

Clean, renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly more important in the state of Florida.  With home electricity consumption rates among the highest in the country, there is a need for renewable energy sources in Florida, but the state only generates 1.1% of renewable power in the United States.  (U.S. Department of Energy, 2012)  There is much debate as to which renewable energy source is the best fit for the Sunshine State, and wind farms are being proposed by some companies.  As a clean energy option in Florida, however, conventional wind farms promise little payoff versus high risk.

Florida’s wind resources are not of great enough magnitude to make wind farms truly productive.  Average wind speed calculations have been performed in many areas of the state, and the vast majority of the state does not even approach the average wind speed recommended for profitable wind farm operation. The few areas of Florida with higher wind speeds generally only have wind resources barely above the levels needed for productive wind farms (U.S. Department of Energy, 2012). Additionally, the daily wind speed measurements include spikes from tropical storms and hurricanes, which can statistically skew the results in a positive direction.  (Salisbury, 2010)

Economically, Florida would suffer from the presence of wind farms.  Florida’s economy relies heavily on tourism and real estate.  Many residents have already protested the installation of wind farms in their communities.  (Salisbury, 2010)  Although there is an obvious economic benefit to the use of renewable energy, the loss of tourism due to fundamentally changing the view of the state’s main attraction - its coastlines - would overshadow that potential benefit.  As nearly all of the areas in Florida with higher average wind speeds are on the coast, the potential for tourism being affected is great.  (U.S. Department of Energy, 2012)  The same logic can be applied to real estate.  Potential buyers will often be more hesitant to pay for a home whose ocean view is obstructed by clusters of 400-foot tall windmills.

In addition to the economic harm, physical harm would also result from the presence of wind farms in Florida.  There is a good reason for the relative lack of very tall buildings in Florida, especially in coastal areas; hurricanes and tropical storms are a regular occurrence there.  The installation of wind farms would mean erecting several clusters of 400-ft tall turbines composed mostly of sheet metal.  These turbines have not been manufactured to hold up to the wind gusts generated by even a Category 1 hurricane.  (Salisbury, 2010)  Hurricane-force winds would knock down these turbines and in some cases form deadly shrapnel.  Environmentally, the presence of wind farms could disrupt many natural habitats, including those of endangered species such as sea turtles.  (Erazo, 2012)

Despite the likely failure of wind farms, there is still hope for clean energy in Florida.  Wind energy is not the only form of renewable energy available for harvest.  In fact, several other options are either in practice or under development already in the state.  Florida has great potential for solar energy and currently has three operating solar plants. Biofuel and biogas energies are being researched and developed favorably as well as put into practice in some areas of Florida (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2012). Furthermore, wind energy may still be an option when offshore wind farming technology is further developed.  (Carey, 2012)

 

References

Carey, B. (2012, September 14). Offshore wind energy could power entire U.S. East Coast, Stanford scientists say. Stanford News. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from Stanford News: news.stanford.edu

Erazo, C. (2012, March 30). FPL still plans to pursue wind power in St. Lucie County. TCPalm: Florida's Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches. Retrieved February 4, 2013, from http://www.tcpalm.com

Salisbury, S. (2010, 10 27). FPL not about to blow chance to harness wind power. The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved February 4, 2013, from http://www.palmbeachpost.com

U.S. Department of Energy. (2012, November 26). Electricity Generation from Renewable Energy in Florida. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/states/renewable_energy.cfm/state=FL

U.S. Department of Energy. (2012, May 16). Florida 80-Meter Wind Map and Wind Resource Potential. Retrieved February 4, 2013, from Wind Powering America: http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_resource_maps.asp?stateab=fl

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2012, July). Florida State Profile and Energy Estimates. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from Independent Statistics and Analysis: U.S. Energy Information Administration: www.eia.gov

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