Florida is known to be the wettest state in the nation, but a 13-day winter cold front in 2010 sent two Hillsborough towns into a water management crisis.

Excessive groundwater pumping by strawberry farmers spraying to keep their produce alive caused wells to dry up, sinkholes to open and the amount of water available to neighboring households to plummet.

Since then, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, has taken a hard look at the cumulative effects of groundwater pumping, said Claire Muirehead, water use permit evaluation manager.

“We need to be able to provide water supply for the people that we have in our state now, but we also need to make sure that there is available water supply for future generations while also protecting the environment,” Muirehead said.

Florida pulls almost 15 billion gallons of water per day from fractures and pores beneath the Earth’s surface and from existing surface water, according to data compiled by AP-APME from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Use Information Program. About 14 billion gallons are used each day in households and factories and for irrigation, livestock, aquaculture, thermoelectric power plants and mining.

Hillsborough County is the biggest consumer, drawing 1.9 billion gallons per day and using 1.6 billion gallons per day on its power plants.

Sarasota and Manatee, by contrast, are among the counties that pump the least amount of groundwater each day. Public consumption and irrigation are the biggest draws.

Public water use in Sarasota County requires about 31.3 million gallons per day, while irrigation takes 10.3 million gallons, according to the USGS. data. The county is now focusing on preparing for population growth, said Christopher Cole, Sarasota County’s public utilities planning supervisor.

“It’s always been a challenging process,” Cole said. “I have reports that go back to the late ’60s talking about planning for future water supply to meet future demands.”

Manatee County, with a large swath of agriculture remaining, swallows 126.5 million gallons on a daily basis, with 84.9 million gallons going to irrigation. It is the ninth largest user of irrigated water in the state. Palm Beach and Hendry top the list.


Statewide, electric power plants are among the largest users of water.

They boil the precious resource to drive their steam-driven turbine generators, then use it to cool their power producing equipment and the hot water before discharge. They also use water for scrubbing and other forms of pollution abatement.

The counties that pull the most water are the ones fueling and cooling thermoelectric plants. The fact that power plants are such gluttons for water is why they are built along lakes and rivers. But since the 1970s, power plants have relied increasingly on reclaimed water from sewage plants.

“We now have 10 power plants in the district using reclaimed water and we are continuing to encourage anyone who has a power plant to use reclaimed water,” said Anthony Andrade, Swiftmud’s reuse coordinator.

The Big Bend plant in Apollo Beach uses it. So does the City of Tampa‘s waste-to-energy facility on McKay Bay and the Duke Energy plant in Bartow.

“The wonderful thing about Florida is that farms and power plants need that water in different seasons,” Andrade said. “Power plants need it most in the summer when it rains and lot, and farms need it in the winter when it’s dry.”

Florida’s five water management districts have encouraged use of reclaimed water across industries in order to reduce demand for groundwater pumping and promote water conservation.

“We have to balance the water use between the environment and our needs,” Cole said. “We can’t use all the water and not leave any for nature.”


Source: Watchdog Sarasota

Our state’s nickname, The Sunshine State, is more than just a bumper-sticker slogan: Florida has the best solar energy resource east of the Mississippi.

This potential, coupled with Florida’s size and growing population, means that we should be a national leader in affordable solar-energy generation. But we’re not.

Two of Florida’s big power companies have recently announced new large, utility-scale solar projects. However, the private investment market is clamoring to invest in solar in Florida, too. Florida’s distributed (roof top) solar market, which is funded by private investment dollars, is being artificially constrained by unnecessary barriers.

So far, Florida’s big monopoly utilities have been effective at controlling who generates power from the sun and what they can do with it. These barriers stifle innovation, constrain customer choice and prevent job creation, hurting my business and hundreds like it.

Kent Crook

Kent Crook

That why longtime solar advocate, CEO of Wiremaster’s Electric, an electrical-services company in Miami, and board member of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, Kent Crook, supports a newly launched ballot petition to expand solar choice by allowing customers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar power and choose who provides it to them. This petition is not a mandate, and it won’t raise taxes. It simply removes barriers in order to expand the choices for Floridians who want to power their homes and businesses with clean, renewable solar power.

Solar choice would enable customers to contract with solar providers who can offer innovative financing plans to provide solar power systems at no upfront cost — much as we already purchase and finance homes or cars. Landlords likewise will have the opportunity to provide the economic benefits of solar power to tenants. And this ballot would also permit solar providers to sell power directly to the customer at a long-term fixed rate. Fixed rates lock in long-term savings and offer more control over our energy future. In addition, recent studies have shown that solar-energy systems increase homes’ resale value.

These benefits are great news for middle- and lower-income customers who may have been locked out of the solar market because they did not have the upfront cash to invest in a solar system. Clean, nonpolluting energy sources like solar can also reduce traditional energy’s health impacts, which disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities in our state and around the country. Thus we are able to leave cleaner air and water for future generations to enjoy.

Despite protests from the big power companies, solar energy does not raise electricity rates, and because the fuel source — the sun — is free, it will help customers control electricity rates. Monopoly power companies like Florida Power & Light make their money by building new power plants. They earn a guaranteed rate of return, which is then passed on as profits to its shareholders. The company doesn’t seem to consider its low-income customers when gutting customer energy-efficiency opportunities or building costly new power plants.

Monopoly utilities are understandably scared of losing their monopoly and the lucrative profits that the government guarantees them. When homeowners and businesses are able to generate their own power, it means less profit for power companies.

 By allowing the private market to invest in solar, investment risk is shifted away from the monopoly utilities’ customers to the private market, saving customers money and reducing the need to build new expensive power generating facilities.

It’s called the free market, and competition will benefit us all. More solar energy customers means businesses will hire and train more solar installers and electricians — resulting in more well-paid, local jobs that cannot be outsourced.

A recent poll found that 74 percent of state voters support a proposal to change the law and allow Floridians to contract directly with solar providers to power their homes or businesses with solar energy. Residents of the Sunshine State clearly support solar power, but they are currently being denied the right to choose it as their power source.

Floridians for Solar Choice is bringing the issue directly to the people. Sign the petition at


Source: Miami Herald

Backers of broader use of solar energy in Florida have quietly launched a petition for the 2016 ballot that would allow those who generate electricity from the sun to sell the power directly to other consumers.

If the measure passes, solar proponents argue that it would open up Florida’s solar energy market, which has largely stagnated for years. The measure would allow business or property owners to produce up to 2 megawatts of solar power and then sell that power directly to others, such as tenants, without having to go through a utility.

Under Florida law, only utilities can sell electricity directly to consumers, though solar proponents argue that 36 states allow the practice. By removing the utilities as middlemen, the argument goes, it could help spur solar as a clean-energy alternative.

Tory Perfetti of Tampa leads Conservatives for Energy Freedom

Tory Perfetti of Tampa leads Conservatives for Energy Freedom

Led by Republican Tory Perfetti, a Tampa resident and head of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, the effort is making for strange bedfellows.

Some Republicans, including the Republican Liberty Caucus of Tampa Bay, and Democrats are teaming up to support the initiative that they say is long overdue. Environmental groups are expected to join the effort at a press conference Jan. 14.

Under the political action committee Floridians for Solar Choice Inc., backers of the amendment criticize Florida utilities as having too much control over the Sunshine State’s power. “Floridians have a right to choose where they are going to have their energy coming from,” Perfetti said.

The group started its petition drive this week but plans to make a major push over the weekend and early next week. “I think the people understand that … the power companies have been running the show in Florida for too long,” said one supporter, Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg. “I’m very excited and happy they’re doing it.”

The Florida Department of State approved the petition Dec. 23 without fanfare. Perfetti waited until after the holidays to begin circulating it.

Perfetti is working with Georgia tea party leader Debbie Dooley, who has pledged to push for more solar in Florida. Dooley has successfully pressed other regulators and policymakers for more solar in neighboring Georgia.

Dooley said the reason the solar efforts have been successful in Republican-dominated areas is that opening up the free market and giving people choice is a core conservative principle. “Conservatives will be out front on this to give Floridians choice and a voice,” Dooley said. “All too often, the only voice that is heard is the voice of these very powerful and deep-pocketed monopoly utilities.”

Scott McIntyre, president of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy and CEO of Solar Energy Management, said the issue was about free enterprise. Prohibiting the sale of electricity from solar power owners to consumers is “stopping the growth of solar power in Florida,” he said.

Floridians for Solar Choice has significant hurdles to overcome. First, the group must gain 683,149 signatures by Feb. 1, 2016, to get the initiative on the 2016 ballot. Then, the measure will need 60 percent support to pass. Advocates could face tough opposition from Florida’s utilities, which have opposed the proliferation of rooftop solar.

Utilities have argued that as more homeowners and business put solar on their rooftops, it puts more pressure on low-income and poor residents to pay to maintain power plants, power lines and other parts of the electric grid. Others counter that constantly building power plants hurts the poor more, and say the utilities simply are worried about losing revenue.

Tampa Electric spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said the utility expects the solar petition to be one of “many energy policy proposals that will emerge over the next few months. We will evaluate the proposal and support the ones that are fair and beneficial to all customers.”

Duke Energy Florida also said it wants to ensure any proposal benefits all customers.


Source: Tampa Bay Times