Business

In Sunshine State, Wind Generating Jobs, Not Power ... Yet

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: April 13, 2012 3:55 AM
NextEra Wind Turbines

NextEra, the parent company of Florida Power & Light, has established wind turbines in Day County, S.D., and other parts of the country. The company is trying to expand its renewable fuel sources in Florida. | Credit: nexteraenergyresources.com


Florida remains in the doldrums when it comes to generating wind power, but the wind industry is producing more jobs in the state, a national report shows.

The American Wind Energy Association reported Thursday that the Sunshine State is home to 15 plants manufacturing wind-power components for use elsewhere.

The facilities range from GE Energy's turbine manufacturing plant in Pensacola to Atlantic Bearings' power-transmission parts supplier in Doral.

A 16th company, turbine maker 5D, is set to crank up an assembly plant in Sarasota this year.

Though nearly 3,000 Florida workers are employed by these firms -- ranking the state ninth nationally in wind-power jobs -- their products and services are exported.

Like most of its neighbors in the sultry Southeast, Florida has yet to jump on the wind-farm bandwagon that's rolling across the country, AWEA said.

Mike Antheil, head of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, says policy-makers in Tallahassee are holding wind and other clean energy back.

"Wind has a cost advantage over solar, but it has the same barriers of entry," he explains.

"Utilities won't buy the power at a reasonable price, and the Legislature makes sure you can't sell it to anyone."

AWEA says other states are spinning ahead.

"New wind projects represented 31 percent of all new energy capacity in 2011 -- second only to natural gas," said Liz Salerno, chief economist for the association.

Texas remained the No. 1 wind generator last year, installing 10,000 megawatts of the capacity, amounting to one-fourth of the nation's total. Ohio and Vermont were the fastest growing in percentage terms.

Ironically, Florida's largest utility, NextEra Energy (parent company of Florida Power & Light), is the country's largest owner of wind generators.

NextEra -- controlling 17.8 percent of the nation's total wind-power inventory -- has 8,340 megawatts under ownership, nearly double the next largest company, Iberdrola Renewables (at 4,727 megawatts).

NextEra added 378.5 megawatts last year. But, still, none of it is in Florida.

AWEA believes that Florida's time is coming -- if for no other reason than its steadily expanding component-manufacturing base.

"There's a growing hub of manufacturers as defense and marine sectors diversify into [wind] turbines. We're seeing companies transition into wind," said Denise Bode, chief executive officer of AWEA.

Although wind accounts for just 2.9 percent of America's current electrical supply, it generates 119.7 million megawatts -- enough to power 12 million homes.

South Dakota leads the nation in producing 22.3 percent of its electricity from wind. Texas is second at 6.9 percent.

Bode sees a steady growth curve ahead.

"The current lower natural gas prices are not sustainable. Our fuel costs nothing, and utilities can sign 20-year [wind] contracts at fixed prices. They're increasingly diversifying their portfolios," she said.

One company, Wind Capital Group, received a permit last month from Palm Beach County for what it hopes will be Florida's first full-scale wind farm.

Robin Saiz, project director for the international group based in St. Louis, said Sugarland Wind expects to generate 200 megawatts on 13,000 acres near Belle Glade.

The $350 million venture will produce electricity at a kilowatt rate that's 2.5 times cheaper than solar and a nickel less than biomass, Saiz estimated.

At those prices, he's confident that buyers will be lining up.

"We're talking to several customers. There's demand from large investor-owned utilities, as well as municipal power authorities," he said as the company awaits approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Meanwhile, Florida manufacturers continue to fuel the wind industry with supplies and services.

Inerjy, a machine builder based in Plantation, is developing a 56-kilowatt turbine that it hopes to bring to market by the end of the year.

"We see a niche market in wind, and a growing niche," said Inerjy managing director Jamie Schlinkmann.

Schlinkmann expects that Inerjy's initial installations -- other than the one at his company -- will be out of state. But, he added, "We're in conversations with Florida customers, too."

But there are clouds on the horizon.

A federal Production Tax Credit is slated to be phased out, and if that happens, some industry analysts predict that wind-power investment would plummet and the sector's workforce could be cut in half.

AWEA is lobbying hard to maintain the tax-credit program.

"This is the heart of an American success story," AWEA's Bode said. "With double-digit growth, [wind power] is the fastest-growing source of made-in-the-USA manufacturing jobs."



Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (11)

Franklin Thompson
12:41PM APR 16TH 2012
These jobs are as 'fleeting' as the wind that produces them. They take up time and produce only air, which is not a viable commercial or personal energy source.
Groscoe
1:04PM APR 14TH 2012
There is one disaster after another on the landscape of wind and solar schemes, all heavily subsidized by taxpayers, around the world....you know you are close to a wind farm when the smell of dead birds is overwhelming....almost as overwhelming as the BS that was spewed by politicians to throw taxpayer money down the drain.

The condescending in the crowd buff their nails and say what idiots we are to ignore wind and solar.....too bad there isn't some place we could send them so they could play out their fantasy without fossil fuels......
LDouglas
9:33PM APR 14TH 2012
".....too bad there isn't some place we could send them so they could play out their fantasy without fossil fuels......"

Lol. So in your world a person has to give up the "mousetrap" if they think someone could or should build a better one?

Good thing other people aren't so closed minded or they wouldn't have run with the fantasies of those who dreamed of using a phone without a cord, sending money electronically, or a written message instantly, flying across the country in hours, transplanting the organs of a person who can't use them to one who needs them, among many other fantastic marvelous things that at one time were fantasy.

Not to mention or that we'd still be using stone tools. Lol.
Andrew Nappi
10:10PM APR 13TH 2012
"A federal Production Tax Credit is slated to be phased out, and if that happens, some industry analysts predict that wind-power investment would plummet and the sector's workforce could be cut in half."

Translated this means that without tax dollars there is not enough market interest to generate private investment. LNG exists in abundance off the panhandle coast. We are not allowed to exploit this treasure sitting right out in our backyard off of Destin. Think of the jobs that would create, and the jobs created by changing FL's big trucks to run on natural gas.
Wind power is just so much hot air right now. Kind of fitting really though for this Governor and Legislature who excel at gasbagging to the voters while obeying the special interests.
wawoo
7:59PM APR 13TH 2012
Mr Donnelly must have far superior knowledge to say, the Scottish government and utilities. Currently 31% of power in Scotland is provided by wind farms including the largest on land wind farm in Europe. By 2020 the Scottish government and utilities are committed to having the capacity from wind farms to meet 100% of Scotlands power needs. Since Scots are particularly noted for being pie in the sky , little contact with reality people I suppose that explains it since no people noted for being pragmatic and frugal would ever commit to such a scheme.
Bryan K Donnelly
4:36PM APR 13TH 2012
WIND, SOLAR, BIOMASS, FANTASY ENERGY!

Wind power, like it’s relatives solar and biomass are fantasy energy; utterly un-economically viable, technologies nowhere NEAR the ability to replace one kilowatt power provided by REAL energy sources, oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear. Without massive tax payer subsidies even the “jobs producing” companies in Florida and elsewhere would instantly go out of business. Look at Solyndra and First Solar; complete LOSERS.

Recently Scotland attempted to “replace” oil generated power with wind. Built the idiotic turbines. The they discovered that wind was so unreliable that they’ll need to BUILD more fossil fuel plants to BACK up the “efficient” wind power at HUGE expense. Such energy sources are a pipe dream of drugged out left wing leftovers from the unlamented 1960’s; not energy just wishful thinking on a grand scale.
Frank
6:05PM APR 13TH 2012
So the general concept of "renewable" escapes you?

Then, no whining about the current and future costs (including contamination cleanup, life cycle costs) for oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear.
LDouglas
7:30PM APR 13TH 2012
That was a good reply but anyone who thinks alternative or renewable energy is a pipe dream not worth pursuing is obviously ignorant of history- and most likely a dinosaur commenting to bide his time while in God's waiting room.
Robert Lloyd
12:23PM APR 13TH 2012
I just wonder if bypassing the 'wind producing' industry (FP&L) and merely have production on each property... wouldn't that be better? Why buy from Florida Power when the wind blows just a well at our house than theirs? Oil is only from THEIR wells, and coal from their mines, but the wind is everyone's and is everywhere.

One comment from BM is that solar cannot operate 24 hrs per day, but that is mostly true for wind also. Think about it, wind dies at night most of the time. I can live without the eagles.

Another concern should be when the US and Israel start a nuclear war (against anyone they don't like) and oil from the middle east is radiantly glowing. Windmills may look pretty good at that time.
BM
9:44AM APR 13TH 2012
Personally, I would prefer wind turbines. There are some drawbacks though. First, is the amount of birds they kill. This is a factor. In fact, every year companies that manage the turbines request an increase in the allowable deaths of bald and golden eagles. Those things may turn slow to our eyes but the area the cover and the fact they make two to three reveolutions per second makes the reaction time for birds of all sorts to avoid the blades nearly impossible.

The second is when it is too windy they cannot operate. Amazing as it seems they just shut them down when the wind gets too high. Having said that, they are still better in my opinion than solar which cannot operate 24 hours a day.

Of course the ultimate solution would be to have wind with solar beneathing them. That way when the birds are killed they can drop on the solar panels and cook.
LDouglas
7:21AM APR 13TH 2012
Very interesting!

Otherwise, this: ""The current lower natural gas prices are not sustainable."

That is undoubtedly true. I read something I'm pretty sure in the business news that the natural gas boom is a Ponzi scheme whose bubble will burst. But if that isn't true, there are still other factors that will have the price increasing in the not too distant future. One, it will eventually be regulated (and I do hope, it will include accountability) because it's a ridiculous shortsighted thing to trade one finite resource, and/or increase the cost of it -water- so we can more cheaper burn up another finite resource.

Another thing is the drop in price has the industry working on being able to export it easier. (One article I read said the state of Alaska wants to bypass the U.S. market altogether for their natural gas.)

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