Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Florida

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The terrain and climate in Florida provides for a unique opportunity to expand clean energy technologies. Florida is known as the Sunshine State, and therefore is seeking to take advantage of its immense capacity to create solar-powered energy. As well, Florida also has a number of fast-growing crops, including sorghum and sugarcane, both of which can be used in the creation of biofuel technology. In 2009, Florida created its own renewable portfolio standard and decreed a certain percentage of their total electricity would be created using renewable energy sources.

1 ) Florida Renewable Energy Association. The Florida Renewable Energy Association is “dedicated to expanding the use of clean, renewable energy technologies through public awareness, political advocacy, and individual initiative.” FREA is a non-profit organization that works toward the promotion of clean energy development in Florida. They do this through political advocacy, public education, as well as industry networking opportunities. FREA believes all citizens of Florida are entitled to sustainable, clean energy and they believe in innovation and environmental stewardship.

2 ) Babcock Ranch. Kitson and Partners, a real estate company, created Babcock Ranch in southwest Florida that was designed at the first sustainable city in America. The plan, started in 2009, consisted of over 17,000 acres that would house six million square feet of office, retail, and light industrial space, as well as about 20,000 homes. All would be built according to the standards listed in the Florida Green Building Council. Around 20,000 permanent jobs will be created due to the ranch. The entire area is to be powered by a solar photovoltaic energy facility.

3 ) Florida Invests in Cleantech Companies. Through the use of the stimulus package provided by the United States Department of Energy, more than $36 million will be used to directly invest in various businesses and assist them in adopting energy-efficiency practices that will not only cut costs but also create hundreds of new, permanent jobs. The money could be “for things that could be as basic as installing upgraded insulation or air conditioning to adopting more sophisticated solar power or environmental monitoring systems.”

4 ) Ability to Apply for Financial Incentives to Switch to Renewable Energy Sources. To push more business and households into using renewable energy and energy efficient systems, the government has set a number of financial incentives including green building incentives, industry recruitment and support, local loan programs, local rebate programs, PACE financing, performance-based incentives, sales tax incentives, state rebate programs, and utility grant, loan, and rebate programs.

5 ) Economic Incentives for Renewable Energy Projects. Florida provides a number of economic incentives for various renewable energy projects. There is the Florida Renewable Energy Tax Incentives Progam which provides numerous financial incentives to renewable energy producers. There is also the Farm to Fuel Grants Program which provides matching grants for renewable energy projects that are based on crops or biomass in Florida. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been administering the Solar Energy System Incentives Program. This provides rebates to businesses, public organizations, non-profit organizations and individuals who elect to install photovoltaic systems of a minimum of two kilowatts, a solar thermal pool heater, or a solar water heating system providing a minimum of 50 percent of the location’s hot-water consumption.

6 ) Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy. The Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, shortened to FARE, is an active coalition of concerned business, manufacturers, agricultural stakeholders, associations, communities, policy makers, non-profit organizations, renewable energy producers, and individuals that are dedicated to instructing as well as engaging citizens of Florida on various production based incentives – legislation that promote renewable energy, create jobs, and produce energy security. Their mission is “dedicated to creating jobs and economic benefit to the citizens of Florida by the use of renewable energy through effective public policy.”

7 ) House Bill for Renewable Energy. In mid 2010, the Florida House voted in a bill that would allow Florida utilities to raise their rates to fund renewable energy programs. Although there has been minimal controversy surrounding the bill, based on raising rates during troubling economic times, it has been determined that this would allow the utilities to start making enough money to fund the various renewable energy products they have in store.

8 ) Cleantech Provides the Opportunity to Increase the Job Field. Because of Florida’s potential to become a hub for renewable energy, especially in the field of solar power, there has been a lot of investment into Florida’s cleantech sector. Because of the increase in investment, it has increased the number of jobs available. According to Dr. Kevin Cooper, “A smart grid is a monitor installed in a house that reports all energy use in real time. This new technology not only allows homeowners to monitor their energy efficiency and save money, but also has the potential to create 10,000 positions in the next three to ten years.”

9 ) Florida Institute for Sustainable Energy. The Florida Institute for Sustainable Energy is an organization that looks to develop environmentally sustainable and energy efficiency practices and technologies, as well as educate the public on these items, and provide information on the policy debate for local, regional, national, and international global issues concerning sustainable energy. The goals include “[the promotion of]interdisciplinary energy research and education programs while simultaneously enhancing visibility [and expediting]transition of research results into marketable products.” The institute is housed by the University of Florida and looks to position the university to be a global leader in energy system and sustainable energy research and development.

10 ) Florida Solar Energy Center. The premier energy research institute in Florida is the Florida Solar Energy Center. The mission of the center is “to research and develop energy technologies that enhance Florida’s and the nation’s economy and environment and to educate the public, students, and practitioners on the results of the research.” Their staff includes engineers, energy researchers, building science professionals, energy and policy analysts, and educators. Their facilities allow their employees to create the next solutions for energy.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He is also author of The 2012 Cleantech Directory. He can be reached at shawn@watershedcapital.com.

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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