Florida’s climate and abundant natural resources have positioned the state, as well as the Panhandle, as a global leader in Renewable Energy, both in research and development and manufacturing of wood products, alternative fuel sources, and wind and solar energy. Northwest Florida’s research universities, as well as the Department of Defense, with its strong commitment to renewable energy and sustainability, provide considerable scientific and engineering support for this growing regional industry sector.
Wood products are at the center of the region’s renewable energy future. Northwest Florida has one of world’s largest plantation-style pine forests. Wood is gaining universal acceptance as a renewable source of bio-fuels for both electric power generation and as a replacement for petroleum-based products. In 2007, Green Circle Bio Energy built the world’s then-largest and most technologically advanced wood pellet facility in Jackson County in Northwest Florida. With ideal soil conditions and a fast-growth cycle for pine forests, Northwest Florida was identified as an ideal location for growing pine for the wood pellet industry. Green Circle Bio Energy’s wood pellets are shipped to Europe through the Port of Panama City and used as a coal substitute to reduce carbon emissions in electric generating plants.
Along with wood, a variety of other feedstock, or sources that fuel energy development, are being developed in Northwest Florida. Applied Research Associates (ARA) in Panama City developed a “drop in” jet fuel made from Camelina or any non-edible oil that can entirely replace petroleum-based aviation fuel. In addition, Pyrogenesis, an environmental solutions company based in Canada, is partnering with the Air Force at Hurlburt Field on a plasma gasification-based solid waste reduction solution and waste-to-energy technology that has far-reaching civilian and military applications.
Northwest Florida is also a major center of wind and solar renewable energy, as well as fuel cells and other renewable technologies, from both a research and manufacturing standpoint. Florida State University’s High Performance Materials Institute (HPMI) is helping develop technologies to manufacture materials that are stronger, lighter, and more efficient, such as wind turbine blades, a product with a direct energy impact. In addition, GE Wind Energy in Pensacola is General Electric's national manufacturing center for wind-powered generators and hubs. General Electric is one of the world’s leading wind turbine suppliers, with more than 16,000 worldwide installations.
The region’s abundant natural resources, including some of the world’s most abundant pine plantations, combined with the region’s tremendous university and Department of Defense research centers, make the Panhandle an ideal region for companies involved in any aspect of renewable energy. The region offers a skilled and dedicated workforce—from scientists and engineers to production workers—as well as industrial parks and sites specifically tailored to the renewable energy sector.