If someone asked you which company is the biggest producer of wind and solar power in the U.S., my guess is you would have trouble coming up with the correct answer — NextEra Energy (NEE). I find it interesting that this Florida-based utility became a leader in renewable energy in North America, especially coming from a state not known for renewable resources. As background, NextEra Energy operates two principal subsidiaries: Florida Power & Light Company, which serves approximately 4.6 million customer accounts in Florida and is one of the largest electric utilities in the country,and NextEra Energy Resources, the largest generator in the United States of renewable energy from the wind and sun. Florida Power & Light Company, a traditional regional utility on par with Southern Company or Dominion Resources, is not the focus of this article. I’m more interested in NextEra Energy Resources, the part of the company focused on renewable energy.
The concept behind NextEra Energy Resources is that the subsidiary operates power plants and sells the output to utilities, retail electricity providers, power cooperatives, municipal electric providers and large industrial companies. The company began investing in renewable projects in 1989 and has grown to become one of the largest providers of renewable energy in the ensuing decades.
As the largest owner and operator of wind generating facilities in the United States, NextEra Energy Resources, by the end of 2011, operated 88 wind facilities (approximately 8,800 wind turbines) in 17 states and three Canadian provinces, with an installed capacity of nearly 8,600 MW of electricity. NextEra Energy Resources is also the largest generator of solar power in the United States. The company co-owns and operates seven solar plants in California’s Mojave Desert, collectively known as the world’s largest solar site.In total, NextEra Energy Resources operates 320 MW of solar power, which is capable of meeting the energy needs of more than 230,000 homes at peak production. In addition, the company plans to bring approximately 900 MW of new solar projects into service from 2012 through 2016.
So how did this Florida-based utility become the biggest wind farm developer in North America and second biggest in the world as well as a leader in renewable energy? As it happens, in the late 1980s the company started investing in wind projects as part of its general diversification program. Later, when the wind industry went into a steep decline that forced many of the companies into bankruptcy, the utility found that they had become the owners of a large number of wind farms. After taking over the wind farms and developing the expertise and technical skills to manage wind power through trial and error, the company came to realize that there was money to be made in developing wind farms and in sustainable energy in general. As a result they continued to build wind farms as well as take on other alternative energy projects, thus becoming the leader in the United States in several renewable energy fields.
As evidence of NextEra Energy’s commitment to renewable energy, in 2011 the company was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index of North America for the third year in a row. The Sustainability Index is based on an analysis of corporate economic, environmental and social performance. NextEra Energy’s experience reminds us that companies do not have to be co-located with renewable energy resources and infrastructure to develop a successful business model based on renewable energy.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative and should not be construed as personalized investment personalized advice. You are responsible for your own investment decisions.
Disclosure: The author has no position in NextEra Energy and no plans to initiate a position in the next 72 hours.