FERNANDINA BEACH – The “low-hanging fruit,” as Wayne Hildreth calls it, is in the windy West and Midwest.
It’s going to take some convincing for politicians and the general public, but Hildreth said clean, renewable wind power may have a big future in Florida as well.
He’s the president of Wind Energy Consulting and Contracting Inc., a company headquartered just off the Atlantic Coast in Nassau County. WECC has been around for more than a year, having worked on about 30 projects so far nationwide.
The company helps businesses and institutions harness wind power, literally right in the backyard one turbine at a time, as a way of saving money and taking pressure off the need for fossil-fuel-based power sources.
One of the most significant projects for Florida comes in the form of a study the company is working on in Mayport. Hildreth said more examination is needed, but he said it may be possible to generate power from up to 20 turbines near the naval base.
If this is true, it would be a significant step in refuting a long-held contention that wind power is the lesser energy alternative, compared to other forms such as solar, in the Sunshine State. The U.S. Department of Energy’s renewable energy laboratory, which documents wind patterns on a national map, shows little potential for wind power in Florida, even along the breezy coasts.
Hildreth said he disagrees with that information, but still, it may be a ways off before the WECC study translates into a wind farm here.
“It’s good for the state. To get the business here would be nice. Are we going to focus our efforts here? No, because that’s not where the low-hanging fruit is,” he said.
Hildreth’s company isn’t the only one looking at wind power in Florida. Miami-based Florida Power and Light recently announced plans to attempt to harness wind in St. Lucie County.
WECC has 18 employees, three of them work at the Fernandina headquarters. The company has offices in Illinois and North Carolina. Hildreth said plans are to open offices soon in Texas and Oklahoma.
But as the state’s political climate changes – Gov. Charlie Crist signed an executive order last year calling for more renewable energy – and the technology for wind turbines continues to improve, Hildreth said he expects business to grow.
“I think there may be something in Florida, but it’s going to be baby steps,” Hildreth said. “There’s going to have to be a public education component.”
By David Hunt
11 February 2008
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