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Wind Power Coming to Sunshine State?

PHOTO: Northwest Floridians may soon get some of their power supply from wind farms in Oklahoma. Photo courtesy: Christopher Neel/U.S. Geological Survey.
PHOTO: Northwest Floridians may soon get some of their power supply from wind farms in Oklahoma. Photo courtesy: Christopher Neel/U.S. Geological Survey.
February 17, 2015

PENSACOLA, Fla. - You've heard of "Inherit the Wind," but what about importing wind?

Gulf Power of Pensacola is hoping to harness the power of wind for Florida by importing it from Oklahoma. The utility company is seeking permission from the Florida Public Service Commission to purchase the wind energy produced on a turbine farm in the Sooner State and brought directly to the Sunshine State.

Supplying power in this manner has never been done before in Florida, and environmental activists are applauding the move. Sierra Club spokesperson Kelly Martin says the timing is right.

"It's cost-effective. The cost of clean energy has plummeted to the point where it is cheaper to bring in wind from out of state to benefit Florida consumers," she says.

The electricity will be brought in via transmission lines from the Kingfisher Wind Farm in Piedmont, Oklahoma. If approved by state energy regulators at the Public Service Commission, it could be used to power more than 50,000 homes in northwest Florida. The agreement would also make Gulf Power the leading utility purchaser of wind energy in the state.

Florida, of course, is known more from its sunshine than its wind. But Martin believes that could soon change too.

"As wind technology has caught up, there are ways to build wind turbines that are in places where there are less of a wind resource," she says.

As for harnessing Florida's sunshine, Gulf Power is also seeking permission to partner with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy to build solar energy plants to power three military bases in northwest Florida. Martin says both moves are long overdue.

"There's no doubt that Florida utilities have been lacking in their adoption of clean energy technologies like solar power and wind power," says Martin.

Wind farms are indeed rare in Florida, and the Sunshine State ranks only 13th in solar energy production.

Phil Latzman/Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL