Solar For The Sunshine State

State Economy

The population of the “Sunshine State” of Florida is approximately 21.94 million people[1]. Florida is the 3rd most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, Florida’s economy was ranked 4th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the tourism, agriculture, aviation, aerospace, pharmaceutical, and biomedical research industries[3].

Environment Policies

Florida is one of only 13 states that has neither a renewable portfolio standard requirement nor a goal[4].. The state does have incentives, tax credits, and loan programs for select types of renewable energy.

In December 2020, Florida utilities[5] used natural gas (71.6%), nuclear (15.0%), coal (8.2%), and renewable energy (5.2%) to generate electricity. Solar and biomass are the primary sources of renewable energy in Florida.

Florida’s use of inexpensive natural gas contributes to the state’s below average cost of electricity. In December 2020, the average cost of residential electricity in Florida was 11.86 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 12.80 ¢ per kWh.

Florida has abundant solar and biomass resources, but very limited wind energy potential. Recent renewable energy projects in the state include:

  • 74.9 MW Solar Project – In April 2021, Duke Energy Florida commissioned the Twin Rivers Solar Power Plant in Hamilton County, which is located in the north central region of the state.
  • 74.9 MW Solar Project – In April 2021, Duke Energy Florida commissioned the Santa Fe Solar Power Plant in Columbia County, which is located in the north central region of the state.
  • 74.5 MW Solar Project – In March 2021, Duke Energy Florida announced plans to build the Fort Green Power Plant in Hardee County, which is located in the central region of the state.
  • 74.5 MW Solar Project – In March 2021, Duke Energy Florida announced plans to build the Bay Trail Solar Power Plant in Citrus County, which is located in the west central coastal region of the state.
  • 74.5 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, Florida Power & Light (FPL) commissioned the Trailside Solar Energy Center in St. Johns County, which is located in the northeast region of the state.
  • 74.5 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, FLP commissioned the Union Springs Solar Energy Center in Union County, which is located in the north central region of the state.
  • 74.5 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, FLP commissioned the Egret Solar Energy Center in Baker County, which is located in the northeast region of the state.
  • 74.5 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, FLP commissioned the Lakeside Solar Energy Center in Okeechobee County, which is located in the southern region of the state.
  • 74.5 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, FLP commissioned the Nassau Solar Energy Center in Nassau County, which is located in the northeast region of the state.

Conclusions

Commercial coal has never been mined in Florida. The coal used to fuel the state’s coal-fired power plants is primarily imported by rail and barge from Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana.

In 2010, 30.5% of Florida’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[6]. In December 2020, only 8.2%% of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the dramatic decrease in the use of coal?

  1. Economics – The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate power from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.
  2. Environment – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[7].
  3. Climate Change – Coal generates 30% to 40% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

Florida’s hot and humid weather makes air conditioning a necessity. The state’s weather is the primary reason why Florida is only behind Texas and California in the amount of electricity consumed per year.

Over the past decade, Florida utilities moved from expensive coal to inexpensive natural gas to fuel their power plants. However, the utilities know that natural gas is not a renewable resource, demand for the commodity will eventually outstrip supply, and the price will again skyrocket. Long term, the Sunshine State’s future is solar.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

[1] Florida Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Florida  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Florida State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[6] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Florida State Profile and Energy Estimates, Electricity Power Sector, 1960 – 2018

[7] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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