A wind turbine in Hawaii — similar sights coming to Florida soon? (Image credit: Harvey McDaniel at Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.)I’ve always wondered why wind energy in Florida never seemed to get much attention. After all, there’s a good steady breeze every time I go to the beach and, even in my backyard (which is 2 miles off the coast), I have a little colorful garden spinner that’s whirring almost constantly.

Still, every wind-energy potential map of the U.S. I’ve seen appears to leave the Sunshine State a pure blank. Some maps don’t even note any potential for offshore energy, which strikes me as especially odd.

Turns out, wind energy in Florida might have some promise after all. This year’s renewable energy technologies grants from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection include two note-worthy investments in wind: $2.5 million for Florida Power and Light (FPL) to build the state’s first wind-energy facility in St. Lucie County, and $123,868 to Progress Energy Florida to install small-scale, inland wind-evaluation turbines at five different locations in the state.

The planned six-turbine installation on FPL property in St. Lucie County could generate up to 22 million kilowatt-hours of electricity — enough to serve the energy needs of more than 3,600 residents, according to the utility. Based on data from the American Wind Energy Association, that’s more energy than is currently produced by more than 200 existing wind farms across the country.

“The roughly $45 million total cost of the project works out to about 33 cents a year for the average FPL customer, or less than the price of a postage stamp,” said Eric Silagy, FPL vice president and chief development officer. “Given its strong environmental attributes, very reasonable cost and local economic benefits, we think the project deserves serious consideration in St. Lucie County.”

An FPL poll of St. Lucie County residents earlier this year indicates Floridians are ready to explore wind-energy in their backyards, with 86 percent supporting investments in Sunshine State wind power.

Progress Energy Florida sees similar potential in wind power.

“We believe small-scale wind generation could play an important role in meeting Florida’s renewable-energy needs,” said John Masiello, director of alternative energy strategy for Progress Energy Florida. “We appreciate the state’s support and partnership as we add the potential of wind power to our dynamic renewable-energy portfolio.”

It’s encouraging to hear that Florida isn’t as much of a wind-energy dud as some wind-power maps have made it out to be. Personally, I could live with the sight of offshore turbines at the beach I visit, if I knew it was providing me and my neighbors with a source of renewable, carbon-free energy.