Renewable Energy Opportunities for Gadsden County

- Posted: 02/25/08

Quincy, FL - (February 25, 2008) - Renewable energy is one of the fastest growing business enterprises nationally. As a result, Gadsden County should be gearing up and making all attempts to keep abreast and remain competitive with the rest of the nation by attracting renewable energy industries. The benefits to Gadsden County in adopting such industries are numerous.

One may ask, what are the driving forces behind this sudden boom and interest in renewable energy? Currently, most our energy comes from fossil fuels like petroleum, coal, and natural gas which cannot be replaced. Pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide are released by burning these fuels to create energy. These pollutants have negative effects on health. Most experts believe them to be the main cause of global warming, undoubtedly, one of the most difficult challenges the world faces today.

There are also the issues of energy self-sufficiency and national security. While most of the petroleum used for personal, transportation, and industrial uses in the US is imported, there is a major interest for the US to reduce its reliance on foreign oil and increase domestic production of renewable energy. Several policies at national and state levels have been put in place to make this possible. US citizens, including those living in Gadsden County, will ultimately be the ones to help realize these goals. In Florida, Governor Crist's policies emphasize reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency, diversity in energy sources and security, as well as situating Florida as a leading state in the development and commercialization of green energy technologies. Similarly, Florida agricultural commissioner, Charles Bronson, advocates for his 25X25 goal. This target aims at producing 25% of the nation's energy consumption from renewable energy by the year 2025.

The state of Florida is unique, with perhaps the greatest potential to lead the nation in the production of renewable energy. Endowed with plenty of sunshine throughout most of the year, and surrounded by the oceans, the Sunshine State's options for renewable energy include solar, wave and wind energy, green electricity, biodiesel, and ethanol. A recent report by the Department of Environmental Protection director, Mike Sole, on the finding of the commission showed that it's much more viable for households to have solar panels now than it was several years ago.

Perhaps the most interesting of the renewable energies are cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel. The history of ethanol dates back to the days of moonshine and the origins of NASCAR. Henry Ford produced the first motor vehicle that ran on a combination of ethanol and gasoline as far back as 1908. Similarly, biodiesel engines date back to 1895. Today, both ethanol and biodiesel resume new importance and provide new opportunities for the economy of the US and Gadsden County. Petroleum for our motor vehicles contributes considerably to the trade deficit. Using ethanol and biodiesel as additives to gasoline is expected, not only to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but to reduce our national trade deficit significantly.

Currently, most of the ethanol produced in the US is from corn grown in the mid-west. Producing ethanol from corn competes with the need for corn for human food consumption. In addition, the option of corn ethanol is unavailable for the state of Florida because it produces very little corn. However, because of excellent conditions for plant growth, Florida is often described as the number one state in biomass production, which uses plant material as the fuel source. This lends Florida to cellulosic ethanol production and green electricity. Cellulosic ethanol is attractive because it's produced from biomass and includes renewable organic materials such as agricultural crops, wood, and even aquatic plants. As technologies for cellulosic ethanol and green electricity become more readily available, we expect to see a bigger growth in this industry. Gadsden County should avail itself to support and attract renewable energy industries and opportunities.

Coupled with the huge availability of biomass, and like most of Florida, Gadsden County is served with an excellent road and railway network which are pre-requisites to attracting renewable energy industries. Gadsden County also has ample industrial space to accommodate new industries. Renewable energy industries can bring to Gadsden County capital investment, economic development, and much needed jobs and expertise. A ripple effect will also be expected in the overall Gadsden County economy because renewable energy industries will rejuvenate other related businesses. In a win-win situation, Gadsden County will greatly benefit economically by attracting renewable energy industries, while simultaneously responding as concerned citizens to the national and state calls to reduce gas emissions and halt global warming.

The Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce is working with several renewable energy opportunities interested in Gadsden County. It is the Chamber's policy not to comment on particular companies until we have completed a thorough due diligence. It is important to be sure that these companies are financially strong with a proven and sound environmental stance. Infrastructure needs and the company's background are also key components to explore. At that point, a particular community can decide if a project is right for them.