Energy + Energy Efficiency
Electricity is a vital resource that must be managed and responsibly sourced in order to improve socio-economic sustainability, resilience, and environmental well-being. In today’s modern digital era, every aspect of City operations is conducted via the use of electricity. With demand for power increasing around the world due to a rise in the electrification of numerous economic sectors (i.e., tele-communications, transportation, buildings, industry, etc.), ensuring reliable and clean sources of generation is key to developing a more sustainable future.
This web page is designed to educate residents and visitors about the concept of energy, and the role energy plays throughout society at a local, regional, and national level. Where does it come from? How is it produced? What is the impact of its production? And, how can you reduce your electricity needs so as to reduce cost? This page is by no means comprehensive, as the energy sector is constantly changing. As such, this page will continue to be updated in order to provide an ongoing factual platform for the latest in energy trends, City projects, and initiatives to provide utility savings.
Florida's Power Portfolio
According to the US Energy Information Agency, Florida currently receives its power primarily from natural gas-fired power plants, with smaller amounts of generation being contributed by nuclear energy, coal-fired power plants, and an increasing number of solar energy sites. As of 2018:
- Florida is the fourth-largest energy-consuming state, and it uses almost eight times as much energy as it produces.
- Florida's many tourists contribute to the state having the third-highest motor gasoline demand and sixth-highest jet fuel use in the nation.
- Florida is the second-largest producer of electricity after Texas, and natural gas fueled about 70% of Florida's electricity net generation in 2018.
- Coal consumption in Florida's electric power sector has fallen from about 29 million tons in 2008 to about 12 million tons in 2018, as natural gas-fired power plants replaced older coal-fired units.
- Coal-fueled generation provided the largest share of electricity in Florida until 2003, when it was surpassed by output from natural gas-fired power plants.
- Two nuclear power stations on Florida's east coast produced about 12% of the state's net generation in 2018. A third nuclear power plant, on the state's Gulf coast, ceased power generation in 2009.
- In 2018, solar energy accounted for more than one-third of Florida’s renewable-sourced electricity generation, with solar power generation increasing from 429,000 megawatt hours in 2016 to about 2.9 million megawatt hours in 2018.
- At the end of 2018, Florida ranked fifth in the nation in total installed solar power generating capacity at slightly more than 3,300 megawatts.
- As of 2018, 37.6% of the states energy consumption went to the transportation sector, 27.9% went to the residential sector, 23.1% went to the commercial sector, and 11.4% went to the industrial sector.
- Almost all of the state's recent and planned additions of generating capacity are either natural gas-fueled or solar powered.
Electricity in Brevard
The City of Cape Canaveral receives its electricity from utility provider Florida Power and Light (FPL). FPL is the largest energy company in the US as measured by retail electricity produced and sold, serving more than 5 million customer accounts, which is estimated to equate to over 10 million people across the Sunshine State. The company employs approximately 8,700 employees and is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc.
One of the closest power plants near the City is FPL’s Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center, a natural gas-fired power plant that replaced a 1960s era petroleum-fired power plant in 2013. Located just south of the NASA Causeway on the western shoreline of the Indian River Lagoon, the facility is capable of producing 1,295 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 250,000 homes and businesses. This is nearly double the amount of power produced by the old petroleum plant while emitting only 50% the carbon dioxide emissions, or the equivalent of removing 46,000 automobiles from the road annually.
Another local power station is the Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center located at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). This utility scale photovoltaic system produces 10 megawatts of electricity via 35,000 ground mounted solar panels. It was commissioned in April 2010, and feeds into the electric grid, generating energy for 1,100 homes and reducing annual carbon dioxide emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons. A separate 1 megawatt solar array is also located at KSC that helps to power its own operations.
In early 2018, FPL constructed an even larger utility scale solar array called the Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center in southern Brevard near Micco. The Barefoot Bay solar array can generate 74.5 megawatts of electricity with zero emissions. This is enough to power 15,000 homes. FPL is the FPL is the largest producter of solar energy in Florida with 28 major utility-scale solar power plants and numerous other smaller community-based solar installations. Together, their solar systems equate to 2,000 megawatts of solar generation with more than 8 million solar panels installed.
Fossil Fuels - such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas - are identified as nonrenewable energy sources, which are energy sources that are only available in limited amounts or take long periods of time to replenish.
Coal: A coal-fired power station is a thermal power station that burns coal to generate electricity. Coal itself is a combustible sedimentary rock with a high amount of carbon and hydrocarbons that is formed over the course of millions of years from the remains of organic material under high heat and pressure. In terms of emissions, it is one of the most intensive forms of fossil fuel.
Petroleum: A petroleum-fired power plant is a thermal power station that burns petroleum to generate electricity. Petroleum, or crude oil, is formed from the remains of tiny animals and plants that died millions of years ago in the oceans. Over time, rock and sediment built up over them, compressing their remains under high heat and pressure. Eventually, veins and pockets of crude oil were formed. Did you know the word petroleum means rock oil or oil from the earth?
Natural Gas: A natural gas-fired power plant is a type of thermal power station that burns natural gas to generate electricity. Natural gas is a nonrenewable energy source that forms deep beneath the earth's surface, and it contains various compounds. The largest component of natural gas is methane. Natural gas also contains smaller amounts of natural gas liquids (NGL, which are also hydrocarbon gas liquids), and non hydrocarbon gases, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. Large portions of the US power grid are run using natural gas-fired power plants.
There are 6,923 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves in the world as of 2017. The world has proven reserves equivalent to 52.3 times its annual consumption. At current levels of consumption (and excluding unproven reserves), this means the world has about 52 years of natural gas left.
Renewable energy is defined as energy that comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished. Many forms of renewable energy are passive in nature, capturing the energy produced by a natural process instead of releasing energy as is usually the case with nonrenewable sources that must be burned in order to initiate power generation. It is this act of burning that makes the emissions of nonrenewables so intensive. The most prominent forms of renewable energy currently on the market—and growing rapidly—are solar, wind, hydroelectric, hydrogen, geothermal, wave and tidal power and biomass. Each energy form is briefly discussed in more detail below.
By far, solar and wind energy are the fastest growing methods of renewable power generation. In 2019, the US generated over 30 times more solar power than it did in 2010, which is enough to power 16 million average American homes. In 2019, the US generated more than triple the amount of wind power it did in 2010, which is enough to power over 33 million homes.
Solar: According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), there are three types of solar technologies that can be used to either generate electrical or thermal energy: photovoltaics, solar heating, or concentrated solar power. Photovoltaics generate power by converting photons of light into electricity through absorption into PV cells. Photovoltaics are used to power everything ranging from small pocket calculators, to orbiting satellites and even entire municipalities. Solar energy made up 40% of all new electrical generating capacity that was added to the US grid in 2019, more than any other energy source.
Solar energy can also be used for heating and cooling, as is the case with solar pool heating systems. Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems also capture heat from the sun but use this heat to generate electricity by boiling large amounts of water to produce steam, which is then used to run turbines. CSP systems often take the form of massive desert situated facilities that use mirrors called heliostats arranged in a circular formation around a centralized collection tower that is filled with a conductive fluid. This superheated fluid—usually molten salt—is used to boil water. Even though CSP systems are large, scaled down community versions are being researched and developed.
According to the US Department of Labor, the fastest growing occupation in the US is solar panel installer, with a projected growth rate of 105% from 2016 to 2026. Additionally, in 2018, SEIA reported that the solar industry generated $17 billion in investment in the American economy, and has contributed to over 2 million solar system installations in the US alone. Florida’s own solar industry supports a workforce of over 12,200 across 584 companies. The state is also set to see a massive surge in the amount of installed solar energy capacity with the formulation of Florida Power and Light’s 30-by-30 Program, a self-set initiative to install 30 million solar panels across the state by 2030. This amount of panels would have a generating capacity of 10 gigawatts.
Wind: Modern wind technology involves turbines mounted atop a tower to capture sustained amounts of energy. Above the ground, wind currents are faster and much more stable given that there is less friction with the Earth’s surface. Traditional turbines catch the wind's energy with propeller-like blades —usually two or three blades per turbine—that act similarly to an airplane wing. When wind passes over each blade, a pocket of low-pressure air pulls the blade down, causing the blades to turn. This phenomenon is called lift. The force of the lift is much stronger than the wind's force against the front side of the blade, which is called drag. The combination of lift and drag causes the turbine blades to spin like a propeller. This spinning motion turns a shaft that is connected to a generator that makes electricity.
The higher a wind turbine’s tower and the larger its blades the more energy it can produce on average. Today, it is not uncommon to see wind turbines at sea or in vast open spaces—approaching 1,000 feet tall. Wind turbines can also be scaled down to smaller community variants that can power individual homes and businesses. These smaller turbines are called vertical axis wind turbines that spin parallel to the ground instead of perpendicularly. They have the ability to generator electricity at slower wind speeds and can be designed to be aesthetically pleasing so as to be better incorporated into their urban surroundings.
Hydroelectric: Hydroelectric systems involve the use of a dam or diversion structure that forces large amounts of water through turbines to generate electricity. Through a reservoir, water is released in a controlled manner through spillways and then funneled downhill with the help of gravity. The fast moving water is sent through turbines at the base of the dam that typically generate megawatts worth of electricity.
Of all the types of renewable energy, hydroelectric systems are the most environmentally and resource intensive. Although they produce zero emissions once completed, dams can disrupt sensitive river ecosystems and they require enormous amounts of material to construct. In many locations, large-scale dam projects are losing approval in energy markets in favor of more flexible and cheaper renewable energy infrastructure like solar panels and wind turbines.
Another type of hydroelectric system, called a pumped-storage facility, is gaining more popularity among utilities as opposed to traditional dams and barriers. This type of facility collects energy produced from wind, solar and other renewable energy installations and stores it for future use. The facility stores energy by pumping water uphill from a basin at a lower elevation to a reservoir located at a higher elevation. When there is high demand for power, water located in the higher reservoir is released. As this water flows back down to the lower basin, it turns a turbine to generate more electricity. Such a facility is critical to the wide-scale adoption of renewable energy since renewables are inherently intermittent (i.e., the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow). Having the ability to store electricity allows for a renewable-based grid. Pumped storage can be used to replace polluting and aging peaker plants that are usually fossil fuel-based as well.
Hydrogen: Hydrogen has long been touted as a reliable future source of clean energy. Although it is the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen does not exist by itself. It is always bonded with other elements to make compounds such as water (H2O). In order to make pure hydrogen for power and industrial activities, it must be separated. Over 90% of today’s pure hydrogen is acquired as a byproduct of the refining of oil and natural gas, making today’s hydrogen market very emissions intensive. However, when utilized in applications such as a fuel cell, hydrogen’s only emission is clean water vapor. Producing hydrogen at scale via renewable energy—known as green hydrogen—is a fast growing component of the clean energy economy with well over a dozen such projects either under development or construction around the world representing 8.2 gigawatts of generating capacity.
Green hydrogen production involves renewable energy powering an electrolysis unit, which splits water into its base elements of oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is collected, stored and later used for energy production and other industrial processes. Electrolysis units are scalable and well established as a technology but remain very expensive when compared to other forms of renewable energy like solar and wind. Yet due to recent large amounts of investment and infrastructure buildup of the technology, these price barriers are falling. Numerous private and public entities are researching and applying hydrogen power to applications ranging from vehicle propulsion to backup generators.
Geothermal: Geothermal energy is derived from the Earth’s subsurface heat. It can be used to generate power or be used for heating and cooling purposes depending on geographic location. The basics of power generation from geothermal sources involves pumping water thousands of feet below ground where it is heated to high temperatures. Eventually the water turns into steam which is used to turn a turbine that produces electricity.
One of the greatest examples of geothermal energy infrastructure can be found in Iceland, a small but geologically active island nation in the North Atlantic. Throughout Iceland, 90% of households are heated with geothermal heat pumps and 25% of the island’s electricity demands are met with geothermal power stations. The other 75% is met with hydroelectric dams.
Wave and Tidal Power: Energy captured from the ebb and flow of ocean tides, currents and the motion of waves is a maturing sector of the renewable energy industry. Infrastructure in this sector involves the installation of seafloor mounted or surface floating turbine systems that spin as a result of water movement in much the same way airflow spins a wind turbine. By the end of 2019 just over 530 megawatts of ocean energy had been deployed globally.
Biomass: Biomass is one of the oldest forms of renewable energy. This source is divided into two categories, traditional and modern. Traditional biomass is the combustion of natural products such as wood, charcoal, and even animal waste. Modern biomass refers to “bioenergy” technologies like biofuel, the combustion of biogases from food waste, and wood pellet heating. By the end of 2019 biomass actually accounted for about three-quarters of the world’s renewable energy capacity, or roughly 86,624 megawatts. More than half of this use came in the form of traditional biomass as its required resources are ratably accessible to much of the world’s population, especially in impoverished nations.
Since the resources necessary to supply modern bioenergy systems can be sustainably grown and cultivated with proper management techniques, biomass is considered renewable. A local example of biomass is the Harvest Power’s biogas facility on Walt Disney World property in Central Florida. The three acre facility—which is located just north of the Animal Kingdom—is capable of processing up to 130,000 tons of food waste from the resort and other local entities per year and converting the waste into 3.2 megawatts of electricity. This food waste would have otherwise been sent to a landfill. Electricity is fed back into the grid to power about 1% of Disney World's energy needs.
The facility produces about 22,000 cubic meters of biogas per day in the form of methane created by bacteria inside large holding tanks that eat the food waste. A similar process can be found at the City’s own Water Reclamation Facility where bacteria are used to break down solids coming into the plant as sewage. Once the methane is collected and safely stored it is then fed into two 1.6 megawatt biodiesel generators where electricity is produced. Solid material left over is turned into organic fertilizer, which is sold to local Central Florida farmers. The Harvest Power biogas facility was first opened in 2014 and runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Why does the City want to shift to renewable energy?
Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has primarily run its socio-economic systems using fossil fuels due to their accessibility and low costs. However, since the start of the twenty-first century, fossil fuels have been diminishing in their ease of accessibility and their return on investment due to a number of factors; including: emissions reduction targets set by local, state, and national leaders, the decreasing cost of renewable energy, a general modernization of global energy systems, environmental costs, and the drastic decrease in demand caused by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
Fossil fuels inherently emit more greenhouse gas emissions than renewable forms of energy. These emissions can include sulfur dioxide, fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, mercury, methane, and carbon dioxide. Recent excess concentrations of these last two gases are the leading cause of the current trend of global warming being observed around the planet by scientists. Due to this continuing warming trend local, state, and national leaders are having to prepare for climate-related hazards such as more frequent wildfires, droughts, and increasing sea levels. This is why the City, alongside numerous other private and public entities, is shifting the way it both sources and generates electricity so as to reduce these harmful emissions and mitigate future climate risk.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as of 2018, Florida’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were 232.76 million metric tons; primarily due to the combustion of fossil fuels. Most renewable energy systems (which are discussed below) produce little to no global warming emissions like methane and carbon dioxide. Even when including “life cycle” emissions of renewable energy (i.e., emissions from each stage of a technology’s life - manufacturing, installation, operation, decommissioning), the global warming emissions associated with clean energy are minimal. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, burning natural gas for electricity releases between 0.6 and 2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (CO2E/KWh), or the amount of carbon dioxide required to produce an equivalent amount of warming. Coal emits between 1.4 and 3.6 pounds of CO2E/KWh. Wind is responsible for only 0.02 to 0.04 pounds of CO2E/KWh on a life-cycle basis; solar 0.07 to 0.2; geothermal 0.1 to 0.2; and hydroelectric between 0.1 and 0.5.
In terms of resilience, renewables also offer a greater opportunity than fossil fuels given that they can be better distributed and scalable for onsite power generation. Coal, petroleum, and natural gas facilities are large and centralized. A solar array or wind turbine for example can be built to any size and can fit at numerous locations, even in confined urban environments. When combined with a battery storage system, renewables can partially or completely power operations (depending on installation size) indefinitely.
Energy efficiency - or the act of using less energy to perform the same task to reduce wasted power - is often overlooked as a means to lower one's utility bills and carbon footprint. In 2018, energy efficiency programs across the US saved more than one and a half times as much electricity as they did in 2010, enough to power nearly 2.5 million homes according to the Environment America Research and Policy Center.
Below are some helpful energy efficiency tips from the US Department of Energy that can lower electricity consumption, emissions, and costs.
1. Service your air conditioner. Easy maintenance such as routinely replacing or cleaning air filters can lower your cooling system’s energy consumption by up to 15%. Also, remember to check your air conditioner’s evaporator coil, which should be cleaned annually to ensure the system is performing at optimal levels.
2. Open windows when you can. Opening windows creates a cross-wise breeze, allowing you to naturally cool your home without switching on air conditioners. This is an ideal tactic on cooler fall and winter Florida days when temperatures are mild.
3. Use ceiling fans. Cooling your home with ceiling fans will allow you to raise your thermostat four degrees. This can help lower your electricity bills without sacrificing overall comfort.
4. Cook outside. On warmer days, keep the heat out of your home by using an outdoor grill instead of indoor ovens if possible.
5. Install window treatments. Energy efficient window treatments or coverings such as blinds, shades and films can slash heat gain when temperatures rise. These devices not only improve indoor aesthetics but can also reduce energy costs.
6. Caulk air leaks. Using a low-cost caulk to seal cracks and openings in your home keeps warm air out.
7. Bring in sunlight. During daylight hours, switch off artificial lights and use windows and skylights to brighten your home as much as possible.
8. Set the thermostat. On warm days, setting a programmable thermostat to a higher setting when you are not at home can help reduce your energy costs by approximately 10%.
9. Seal ducts. Air loss through ducts can lead to high electricity costs, accounting for nearly 30% of a cooling system’s energy consumption. Sealing and insulating ducts can also go a long way toward lowering your electricity bills.
10. Switch on bathroom fans. Bathroom fans suck out heat and humidity from your home, improving comfort.
PACE: In 2017, the City of Cape Canaveral adopted a resolution (2017-01) that allows local governments to create PACE programs in order to provide access to upfront financing for energy conservation/efficiency, renewable energy, wind resistance, and other improvements. The program, approved by the State of Florida, uses third-party administrators to provide funding for clean energy projects. These programs not only assist residents and businesses in reducing their carbon footprint but can also stimulate the local economy by creating job opportunities. To learn more, visit: PACENation.
Project Sunroof: Google’s Project Sunroof is an open source free platform available to residents for determining how much energy a solar array could make atop any given building visible within Google Earth. See what is capable on your own roof today!
Carbon Footprint Calculator: Curious about what your own carbon footprint is? Use the US Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon footprint calculator to better determine your emissions across the areas of transportation, waste, and of course, home energy usage.
SolarTogether: If you are looking to reduce your dependence on fossil fuels and lower your carbon emissions but do not have space or funding for a renewable energy system a virtual offset is an option. A virtual offset is basically like subscribing to an online movie streaming service. FPL’s new SolarTogether program allows customers to pay a fixed monthly subscription cost to virtually offset their electricity usage with solar energy. For example, you can subscribe to offset 2 kilowatts of your electricity usage with an FPL utility scale solar power plant. In return, you will begin to receive bill credits for your subscription, which will over time act to lower your monthly utility bill.
In January 2019, the City partnered with FPL to become one of the first municipal SolarTogether subscribers. The City will receive bill credits that will—after six years —see a breakeven point on its additional subscription cost and subsequently begin positive financial returns. Almost 3 million kilowatt hours of municipal consumption will be offset through this virtual method. Over the life of the 30-year program, the City will see over $385,000 in utility savings while helping to invest in a clean, renewable form of power abundant to the state.