SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
In June, Gulf Power filed a petition requesting that the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) approve an additional 94 megawatts of clean wind energy generation into its portfolio from the Kingfisher Wind farm in Oklahoma.
Gulf Power is already the leading purchaser of wind energy in Florida. In January of this year, Gulf Power began delivering 178 megawatts of wind energy to its customers from the original Kingfisher Wind project. If this new request is approved, the utility will have a total of 272 megawatts of wind energy in its energy portfolio in Florida – enough to power 77,150 homes a year!
With the combination of these wind energy contracts and the three utility-scale military solar projects announced last year and under construction in North Florida, Gulf Power is projected to obtain nine percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources. This announcement firmly places Gulf Power, a company with mere 447,000 customers, as a leader in Florida in the proportional increase in clean, renewable energy relative to its size.
Purchasing wind power is becoming a trend among Southern utilities and is made possible by extremely affordable wind power from the Midwest. With the approval of the 94 megawatt wind power deal, Southern Company utilities (including Gulf Power, Georgia Power, and Alabama Power) will be just shy of securing one gigawatt of clean, renewable, affordable wind power!
We hope this trend continues for wind in the South, with proposals for new long-distance transmission lines like the proposed Plains and Eastern Clean Line project and Pattern’s Southern Cross Line which will provide Gulf Power the opportunity to connect Florida customers with even more low-cost wind power from the midwest and Texas.
While SACE applauds Gulf Power’s announcement to continue investing in affordable long-term wind power contracts, we also encourage the utility to take better advantage of renewables in Florida – including the tremendous solar potential that the Sunshine State has to offer. Additionally, new wind turbine technology now makes wind energy development within Florida feasible.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is ready to move ahead with plans to demolish its Widows Creek coal plant located in Stevenson, Alabama. In accordance with environmental regulations, TVA analyzed environmental impacts associated with various demolition and closure options and released its Final Environmental Impact Statement in early June.
TVA will use controlled explosions to raze Units 1-8 at the plant and will work to ensure all hazardous materials and potential safety hazards are removed. Demolition will begin in late 2017, making way for the much-heralded Google Data Center to be built at the former coal plant site. Google announced its plans to build its 14th data center back in June 2015 and aims to power the facility with 100% renewable energy. The data center will provide 75-100 new full-time jobs and is a welcome economic development opportunity for northern Alabama.
Unfortunately, Widow Creek’s coal ash, however, will stay in place – according to another recent TVA decision to close toxic coal ash impoundments at coal plants in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. The 25 million cubic yards of coal ash currently stored on site will be capped in place, despite the fact that these impoundments are seeping toxic metals into the groundwater. Widows Creek’s coal ash impoundments have already polluted surrounding water resources as 10,000 gallons of coal ash slurry spilled into Widows Creek, a tributary of the Tennessee River, less than three weeks after the much larger and more infamous Kingston coal ash spill in December 2008.
SACE will continue to push TVA to remove coal ash from the Widows Creek site and move it to permanent, lined-storage facilities that are better equipped to handle toxic waste. We look forward to seeing the site’s transition from dirty to clean energy and will continue to report on Google’s progress bringing clean energy jobs and infrastructure to the Southeast.
As hurricane season kicks off along the Atlantic coast (June 1 to November 30), it’s a good time to think about the connection between hurricanes and climate change.
As the climate warms, hurricanes are projected to get stronger and wetter. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the IPCC modeling, we are likely to experience an increase in hurricane storm intensity, with a doubling of category 4 and 5 hurricanes over the course of the 21st century, while at the same time a decrease in frequency of category 1 to 3 storms. It is projected that storm intensity will increase 2 – 11 percent and there will substantially higher rainfall rates than associated with present-day hurricanes—perhaps 10 -15 percent more rainfall within 100 km of the storm center. Overall, it is projected that hurricane damages will increase by 30 percent by 2100, without even taking into account future sea level rise.
However, sea level rise from climate change introduces another destructive variable into the mix. As the sea rises from warmer temperatures, each storm pushes flood waters higher than it would have without sea level rise. For example, insurance giant Lloyds of London estimated that about 30 percent of the New York City area losses from Hurricane Sandy were attributable to just the historical observed sea level rise. Put another way, the damages from Hurricane Sandy in New York City would have been 30 percent less in the absence of sea level rise.
Clearly, the stakes are high for the Atlantic coast when it comes to the impacts of climate change. As we prepare for yet another hurricane season with basic emergency preparedness, we should also press for meaningful action on climate change to minimize future catastrophe. When the next big hurricane strikes, let’s not have to wish we would have acted on climate change sooner.
You would think that $1.65 billion dollars would be enough profit for Florida Power and Light (FPL) – Florida’s biggest power company. Despite that considerable profit in 2015, the utility recently proposed a 24% rate hike on customers that includes a request for an additional $240 million dollars in pure profit. A series of public hearings over this proposed rate hike just concluded – and sparks flew.
Florida’s most populated counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, came out against the rate hike with strongly worded statements. The Miami-Dade School Board, for instance, called the rate hike “devastating.” Broward County blasted FPL, highlighting the Company’s actions to reduce consumer access to renewable energy and conservation, actions that preclude its customers from reducing their exposure to the proposed rate increase.
At a Miami press conference before one of the hearings, state Rep. Javier Rodriguez and City of Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner spoke about how the proposed rate hike is energy injustice citing the huge income inequality gap in south Florida. The unfairness of such an increase on those least able to afford it, even as FPL banks a considerable profit, was a common theme expressed by frustrated customers at the hearings. Others commented on FPL’s gutting of conservation programs that would have helped customers reduce energy use and save money on bills; while others blasted FPL for their leaking nuclear reactor cooling canals south of Miami as well as their active participation in a utility-funded campaign that successfully derailed a citizen ballot initiative seeking to provide Florida energy consumers with more choice for rooftop solar.
The Commission will rule on whether to approve or deny the rate hike later this year. If you’re interested in letting the Public Service Commission know your opinion, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include docket number 160021-EI.