The Reliability of Natural Gas

By staff writer

January 2019

With the American public concerned about the future of its energy and power source, natural gas remains an immediately viable option. Both domestically and internationally, natural gas is known for being an accessible, reliable and resilient supply network.

The infrastructure for natural gas offers dependable and diverse options. Providers are able to supply gas through pipelines or by shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as other methods, with few technological limitations. For these reasons, natural gas remains one of the more viable energy sources available today.

What’s more, natural gas also happens to be among the precious few commodities in life that have actually gone down in price. Due to the large supply available, natural gas has been decreasing in price for many years now.

“We have over a 100-year supply of natural gas,” Carolyn Bermudez, vice president and general manager at Florida City Gas, told Invest: Miami when she sat down with our team in early December. “We’re seeing some of the lowest prices for natural gas that we’ve ever seen, and because of that, natural gas is being used more now by electric utilities as their fuel source to produce electricity. With supply and demand as high as they currently are, we remain optimistic about the price remaining consistently low.”

Florida City Gas, which joined the NextEra Energy family in July 2018, is one of the largest providers of natural gas in the market. “In the past year, we converted nearly 100 of Miami-Dade Transit’s bus fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) with more to come in the following years,” Bermudez said.

In addition to improving and investing in infrastructure, Bermudez says that Florida City Gas will continue to focus on prudent and effective cost management: “As Miami-Dade’s communities continue to grow and demand for natural gas service increases, Florida City Gas must meet our commitments to deliver clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas to our customers.”

With a new year beginning, many South Florida residents are considering switching to natural gas to power their lives. Florida City Gas is currently offering substantial rebates for residential and commercial customers who switch to natural gas or replace old natural gas appliances.

For more information on our interviewee and FCG’s rebates, visit: https://www.floridacitygas.com/

 

Tampa Bay’s “Lost Summer”

By staff writer
October 2018 – 2 min. read

There’s no escaping the fact that the 2018 summer tourist season on Florida’s Gulf Coast has been one of the worst in recent memory, both economically and environmentally. The major red tide event has led to record-low occupancy rates for local hoteliers and restaurateurs. In some counties, residents are already referring to it as the “lost summer” due to the estimates of revenue lost from lack of tourists. While mostly restricted to the west coast of Florida, the outbreak of red tide has recently turned up on the Atlantic coast and parts of South Florida as well.

Nearing the end of September, well over 700 tons of red tide debris had been collected in Pinellas County. Similarly, 40 businesses in the area reported losses of at least $128 million. Both figures are still likely to rise as the red tide lingers beyond the summer.

For residents of Pinellas County, the trouble started months prior to the red tide actually hitting local shores. The counties to the southern part of Pinellas were hit the hardest this summer, but news sources mostly from outside of the state more or less lumped all of the central Gulf Coast together in their coverage of red tide, leading many beach-going Americans to believe that the entire Gulf Coast was plagued with toxic blue-green algae.

“It was reminiscent of the [BP] oil spill to some degree. It was here if you watched the national media, but it really wasn’t here. We actually never had oil on our beaches,” Keith Overton, president of TradeWinds Island Resort, told Invest: Tampa Bay when he sat down with our team earlier this week. “The national exposure and media coverage that the red tide to the south of us received killed us, even though we had very minimal red tide for only a few days here on St. Pete Beach. Our year has been destroyed financially when comparing the results to our forecast at the beginning of the year. We know with certainly that we lost somewhere around 1,000 room nights. We’ll never know how many people canceled and didn’t tell us why or never even called to book. You could easily estimate that it had a million-dollar impact on us.”

Understandably, marketing Pinellas County as a tourist destination has been a bit more challenging this year.

“Our goal is to convey the most accurate up-to-the-moment conditions of the shore,” David Downing, president and CEO of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, told Invest:. To that end, the Visit St. Pete-Clearwater website has an online resource titled “Current Beach Conditions,” offering beachgoers real-time information about the local waterways.

The website is both industry-facing and consumer-facing. “It has 17 points across Pinellas County’s coast, updated twice daily with human eyes, ears and noses on the beach, reporting on the conditions in real time,” he says. “It has been a godsend for us because we can send people to the unaffected places.”

As far as marketing and advertising is concerned, Downing suggests that Visit St. Pete-Clearwater has had to tweak its message a bit. “[We’re talking] about many of the other facets of the destination, not so beach-forward,” he said. “We have the mural festival happening, a jazz festival and the culinary and craft beer scene, among many others.”

So what is being done about red tide? As we enter into the fall and winter months (however indistinct that transition might be here in Florida), county officials and business owners are looking forward to putting all of their red tide woes in the rear-view mirror.

A $1.3 million grant from the Department of Environmental Protection has paid for those aforementioned beach and water cleanups across Pinellas beaches, and Governor Scott has pledged a total of $13 million in grants to help affected counties battle the algal bloom.

Keith Overton says that in the future he’d like to see some funds allocated for research purposes. “I really do think that scientific research is a worthy investment to try to figure out how we can minimize the effects of red tide,” he told Invest:. “The only way we can even consider solutions is through government-funded scientific research. If we can better understand what causes red tide, we have a better shot at finding a viable solution and one that has less of an impact on the Gulf of Mexico fishery.”

For more information about our interviewees, visit their websites
Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater, https://www.pinellascvb.com/
TradeWinds Island Resort,
https://www.tradewindsresort.com/index

 

 

The Fight for Fresh Food

By contributing writer Sean O’Toole
September 2018 – 2 min. read

Urban agriculture is an integral part of human civilization. The ability to cultivate food consistently in one place was the impetus for the founding of the first human cities, and the need for a reliable supply of food has been one of the most critical concerns of every city since. This was no less true for early America. However, over time, our ability to factory farm massive quantities of food on faraway farms and then ship it to urban destinations reduced the need to keep farms and gardens close to home. The victory gardens of World War II — necessitated by the need to conserve for the war effort — were an oasis of urban agriculture that quickly dried up when postwar prosperity made them obsolete yet again.

In 21st-century America, there is no shortage of food. But there is a shortage of good food. Our cities are food deserts — areas lacking fresh, healthy whole foods. Instead, we subsist on the processed, the fast and the fattening. We are always fed but never nourished. In response to the epidemic of bad food, urban agriculture is making a resurgence in cities across the country, including Atlanta.

 

 

Atlanta residents were extremely vocal about the need to improve the quality of locally available food, and the city listened by making food part of the Resilient Atlanta Strategy, among other local initiatives. This led to the rise of the AgLanta Grows-A-Lot program, which makes vacant, city-owned land available to residents and nonprofits for the cultivation of fresh fruits and vegetables. The program represents a positive step toward Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ goal of putting 75 percent of Atlanta residents within a 10-minute walk of fresh food by 2020 and developing a resilient food system by 2025.

MARTA is also bolstering this effort. In 2015, the organization launched its Fresh MARTA Market as a pilot program with the goal of both helping farmers sell their produce and providing healthy, fresh food to the city’s residents in a convenient location. What could be more convenient than a MARTA station? The program currently operates at five stations following the recent opening of the Bankhead Market on September 19, 2018.

Leading construction company Skanska also understands the importance of resilience and urban farming. “Our Atlanta office was the first Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Gold-certified office space in 2007,” Scott Cannon, Skanska’s executive vice president, told our Focus: Atlanta team. “We have two unique and sustainable projects underway in Atlanta: the Georgia Tech Living Building Challenge and an urban farm shed along the BeltLine. The shed is a 500-square-foot off-grid storage and workshed featuring a photovoltaic energy and storage system, composting toilet and the use of salvaged and locally milled wood products.”

Atlanta’s renewed commitment to urban agriculture in recent years is already beginning to have an impact. The total area of the city’s food deserts shrunk by 17 percent between 2010 and 2016 alone. Like other successful programs in the city, this is thanks in part to the enthusiastic creation of public-private partnerships intent on furthering the expansion of urban agriculture. AgLanta Grows-A-Lot is receiving assistance from groups such as the Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District, NewFields, the Atlanta Community Food Bank and many more. Thanks to these efforts, Atlanta will not just grow in the future; it will also grow healthier.  

For more information on the City of Atlanta’s resiliency efforts, visit the Office of Resilience website: https://www.atlantaga.gov/government/mayor-s-office/executive-offices/office-of-resilience

For more information on our interviewee, visit Skanska’s website: https://www.usa.skanska.com/who-we-are/contact-us/skanska-offices/atlanta-ga/

Innovative Infrastructure

 

 

April 2018 — The Miami metro area is booming. As of 2016, the city was ranked the 8th largest for population and the 6th largest for employment growth among big U.S. cities. People are flocking to Miami to take advantage of everything it has to offer: warm weather, rich culture and unique business opportunities. It truly is one of a kind.

However, with an increasing population comes increasing challenges. With limited space to expand, the city continues to look for innovative ways to update its infrastructure in order to accommodate the growing number of residents and employees. Companies are experimenting with new technologies in order to improve safety and efficiency in the most cost-effective way.

Invest: Miami spoke with a number of leaders in the city’s infrastructure industry to gain insight into how Miami plans to successfully increase its capacity limit in the most economical, sustainable and feasible manner. Here’s what they said:

Humberto Alonso, Senior Regional Business Development Director, Atkins North America

“One of the challenges in South Florida is that solutions for transportation that work elsewhere involve building more miles of road or widening streets. We’re past that point here, particularly in Miami-Dade County. There’s no more room to build, so we need to look for other solutions. Technology will be a part of it, but there has to be an infrastructure investment as well. People have to change the way they think about going from one place to another.”

Eric Silagy, President & CEO, Florida Power and Light Company

“In Miami-Dade in particular, it’s critical that we continue to support growth in the region in a comprehensive and forward-thinking manner. The construction boom in Miami over the last few years has been enormous, but it can be challenging from an infrastructure perspective. A lot of planning needs to be done in advance to be able to meet the needs of the new developments. We’ve made great strides in working with regional stakeholders to understand what is coming and the timeframe for these investments so that we can properly plan and execute projects on our end to be ready to support these developments. It’s important to work together to provide opportunities for continued growth while minimizing the impact to those who already live and work in the area. And of course, we must continue to improve and enhance our storm preparation and response planning so that we are able to get the lights back on as quickly as possible after a major storm — particularly in an economic hub like Miami.”

Melsie Ordonez, Director of Operations & Senior Mechanical Engineer, Ross & Baruzzini

“The great thing about working with Miami International Airport is that they are at the forefront of innovation and offer opportunities to explore outside the box. One of the nuances in that environment is the need to tie into the existing infrastructure. We’re doing a small renovation in Concourse G, which is one of the original concourses. There are systems there that need to keep running to keep planes moving even while they are being worked on and added to. Tech is moving fast, and we need to marry the old and the new.”

Eddy Smith, Senior Vice President of Client Services, SCS Engineers

“We use some different approaches that might be more economical. Instead of putting two feet of soil on top of contamination, we’re challenging the old standards and saying, ‘Why can’t we use less than two feet and put in a synthetic barrier?’ We’ve gotten traction and save our clients a whole lot of money by doing that.”

To find out more about our interviewees above, visit their websites at:

Atkins North America: http://www.atkinsglobal.com/en-gb/north-america
Florida Power and Light Company: https://www.fpl.com
Ross & Baruzzini: http://www.rossbar.com
SCS Engineers: http://www.scsengineers.com

Smart energy

How Florida Power & Light is investing in infrastructure to increase efficiency

Eric Silagy President & CEO – Florida Power & Light Company

 

Eric Silagy in Juno Beach on March 10, 2008.

What have been the most important milestones for Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) in 2016?

This past year, in Miami, we invested more than $50 million in transmission and distribution in the Downtown area. The Miami construction boom has been tremendous, but it has also created a lot of challenges. A lot of planning needs to be done in advance to be able to meet the needs of the new developments. That’s why we try and work really closely with the developers, the city and the county to be able to understand what is going to be happening in the next six to 12 months – and even beyond– so we can anticipate and execute the proper investments in an orderly and efficient way. We have to find the right balance so we can have growth that is done in a way that is the least impactful to residents as possible, but also provides future opportunities for those who live and work in Miami. Another factor that we need to take into account is being prepared for hurricanes. It is very important that we continue to be able to respond quickly because otherwise, the economic damages could be far worse than the physical ones. For example, electric cranes operate PortMiami, meaning they need electricity to operate reliably. If the power goes out due to a storm, the port stops operating, which is why we made important investments to strengthen the infrastructure of the port.

What has been the impact of the smart grid technology in Florida’s electric grid?

We have one of the smartest grid systems in America. Smart grid technology has completely changed the way we see and operate the electric grid. All customers have smart meters, except a small handful that specifically requested not to have them. We have invested a significant amount of resources in technology that now allows us to anticipate possible problems with the grid. The electric grid sends us signals about how it’s operating in real time, showing us what possible failures we could experience so that we can correct them before a problem occurs. We are also using mini-drones to identify certain problems that arise. Once the drone shows us what exactly the problem is, we are able to go in with the correct resources to fix it. This allows us to approach day to day issues proactively instead of reactively, saving a lot of time and money, which helps to keep the electricity bills low. On average, we have been investing in Florida around $3 billion per year over the last six years; in 2016, we invested more than $3.5 billion, and in 2017 we plan to invest more than $5 billion. Yet, in the last 10 years, our bills to customers have gone down 14 percent – primarily because the efficiency gained through technology and process improvements provides greater benefits than the cost to invest in it.

Invest: Miami speaks with Jose R. Mas, CEO, Mastec

 

 

Consumer demand is an important driver of infrastructure development and what MasTec undertakes as a company. Telecommunications is a good example because it is not highly regulated like energy or water, and there is a lot of competition. Municipalities want their residents and businesses to have the best services and best internet speeds, so it is not difficult to get permission to build infrastructure. Local governments are also open as to how they deal with telecommunications companies. This is one of the main areas of infrastructure improvement. While the continued roll out of 4G has been a big driver of growth, there has also been a lot of activity in fiber-to-the-home infrastructure. The desire for increased internet speeds means fiber lines are an important product for us. More and more is being doing over the internet, so consumers are demanding higher speed at home. This is driving our business. Companies such as AT&T have been providing normal internet speeds of up to 50 Mbps. However, in the past year, a new product has come on the market, Gigabit Speed, which is 1,000 Mbps. AT&T already has significant infrastructure in the state because it has provided telephone lines for more than 100 years. Over time it has improved lines, eventually building internet infrastructure which has the main backbone of optical fiber lines, with the lateral, coaxial cables connecting homes and business. The next move is improving this with fiber lines to homes and businesses replacing coaxial cables. A lot of money is spent doing this work in Florida. New fiber infrastructure, called fiber-to-home, provides substantial speed improvements. The same demands are transferring over to the wireless space with mobile technology. This is where 5G will come into play, which is being discussed by all the major telecoms providers. It could be starting as early as 2018. This is a huge driver for our business and the infrastructure sector in general.

Invest: Miami speaks with Kerri L. Barsh, Shareholder and Co-Chair, National Environmental Practice, Greenberg Traurig, P.A.

 

 

05/16/13– Miami– Kerri L. Barsh, with Greenberg Traurig.

Although the impacts of climate change are varied, two of the most important issues for residents and businesses in South Florida are sea-level rise and extreme storm events. But there are also less obvious, although equally important, concerns such as the effects of saltwater intrusion on the potable water supply. In Miami Beach, the local government has implemented a robust stormwater management program to protect from increased sea levels and flooding. The city has also raised roads up to six feet to combat the effects of rising sea levels. One of the challenges of climate change occurs when addressing unexpected consequences. For instance, a restaurant in Sunset Harbour experienced flooding during a torrential downpour and although the street had been raised, the elevation of the restaurant was below the crown of the road. The insurance claim was denied because the area was deemed to be a basement and no longer insurable. The impact on insurance and reinsurance raises critical issues related to climate change. What happens if you can’t insure beyond 15 years because you don’t have accurate projections of the impact of climate change? This issue is likely to have a considerable effect on the affordability of housing in coastal areas and other regions prone to flooding. Miami-Dade County officials have met with representatives of global insurance and reinsurance institutions to discuss methods of identifying and projecting risk, as well as ways to stabilize the market and minimize issues of insurance affordability. Miami-Dade is expected to employ greater usage of public-private partnerships as a means of funding future infrastructure needs, pointing to its recent multi-billion dollar investment in water and sewer infrastructure as one successful, large-scale example. The county is also exploring ways of engaging with the private sector to share the risk, and helping with the financial impact of infrastructure projects over time. Dealing with the effects of climate change will present unexpected issues and unintended consequences that will require considerable ingenuity to address. The success of these initiatives will require local governments and the private sector to work together and take the lead in connection with these critical issues.

BritWeek presents An Ocean Science Virtual Reality Experience

When: Thursday, March 9th from 7.00pm

Where: Villa Vecchia, 4821 Pine Tree Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33140

An exclusive evening celebrating the collaboration between British marine scientists  together with ANGARI Foundation on board their 65 foot research vessel.