Thursday, June 19, 2008

3000 Florida Homes powered by solar energy

I started reading this article and at the third paragraph, I was mentally calculating that a home would typically need a half acre of land to solar-power it.

Florida total area is 53,927 square miles and that converts to: 34,513,280 acres.

The US Census Bureau estimates the number of Florida housing units at 8.5 million

That means that we would need about 4,250,000 acres of land to power them all.

Roughly one in every eight acres available would have to be dedicated to power our homes.

Too much, definitely. Or perhaps there is some flaw in my calculation.

Anyway, it seems that we would have to combine wind and solar power and improve the efficiency of our solar plants, if we ever want to altogether eliminate standard energy sources such as oil and nuclear.

Oops… part of the solar panels could be placed on the roofs of our homes. But that won't make such a big difference after all.

I guess we should better start getting serious about this whole subject. Energy for our homes, our cars, our factories, our agriculture, will affect the future of humanity far more than we would like to imagine. What's going on with price of petroleum is just a warning on the events that will sooner or later, inevitably, determine our survival on this planet.

Usage of renewable resources, conservation of our oceans and our forests, growth management, and population control, must be the vision of our leaders from now on.

Now read the article:

Sarasota Herald Tribune June 19, 2008 By Zac Anderson

DESOTO COUNTY — The county that hosts Florida's oldest rodeo may soon harness the sun's rays and gain world renown in the process.

More than 3,000 Florida homes could begin using clean energy by the end of 2009 if Florida Power & Light receives permission to build a solar power plant in DeSoto County, north of Arcadia.

The proposed solar array, on 1,525 of 13,500 acres the company owns near the Hardee County line, would be the largest photovoltaic power plant in the world at 25 megawatts, according to FPL filings with the Florida Public Service Commission.

The DeSoto County plant would be 100 times larger than FPL's photovoltaic demonstration project at Rothenbach Park on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota County.

"We're thrilled to have something like that locate here," said Matt Holloman, a spokesman for DeSoto County. "It's a clean industry. It's exciting to be on the forefront of that kind of technology."

The DeSoto project is part of an aggressive push by FPL to expand its renewable energy portfolio in the face of increasing public pressure to curb greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The company is proposing three solar power plants totaling 110 megawatts, which combined would make Florida a leader in utility-scale solar energy nationwide.

The other two proposed solar plants would be in Martin County and at the Kennedy Space Center. The proposed Martin County plant would be the largest, at 75 megawatts, and would use a different kind of solar technology that heats up water to produce steam that powers turbines.

State legislators approved an energy bill this year that begins the process of creating renewable energy benchmarks that utilities must meet.

The legislative action follows Gov. Charlie Crist's executive order last year, in which he set a goal that 20 percent of the state's energy come from renewable sources by 2020, with an emphasis on wind and solar energy.

The renewable push comes with a price.

FPL is seeking permission from the Public Service Commission to raise rates by about 83 cents a month for the average customer in the first year the power plants are operational, and about 31 cents a month each year after that through 2033 to pay for the $688 million investment.

If approved, the solar plants could begin generating power in 2009 and would be fully operational by 2010.

That is a much quicker turnaround than traditional power plants, which can take a decade to plan and build. But the solar facilities also will provide much less energy.

FPL's Turkey Point nuclear plant in Miami generates enough energy to power 450,000 homes. When the sun is at its peak, the three projects would serve 15,000 homes.

They provide other benefits, though, saving FPL $262 million in fuel costs over the life of the project and offsetting 3.5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is the equivalent of removing 25,000 cars from the road.

"We're committed to helping address the challenge of climate change," FPL spokesman Randy Clerihue said in an e-mail.

Aside from the environmental benefits, FPL is touting what the project would do for Florida by making the state the second-largest producer of utility-scale solar energy behind California.

"Operating solar resources on this large utility scale will provide a strong platform from which Florida can build in becoming a global leader in solar power," FPL wrote in the petition for a rate increase.

Only about 1.4 percent of FPL's energy comes from renewable sources.

Demand for solar energy among home and business owners rose after legislators increased the solar panel rebate program to $5 million this year, said Peter Marron, a consultant with Sarasota-based Sunbelt Solar Energy, which contracted with FPL to build the Rothenbach Park solar array.

"People want cleaner energy," Marron said. "It's nice to see FPL recognize that. We can't just keep building coal plants."

The DeSoto County Commission approved a special zoning exception in April to allow FPL to build a power plant on the land east of U.S. 17. The company still must submit a site development plan.

The Public Service Commission will rule on the FPL's proposed rate increase in August. The rate increase is separate from the 16 percent increase requested earlier this month by the company to address rising fuel costs.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
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