Destin's HarborWalk Village Promotes Solar Energy With Gulf Power Partnership
Okaloosa County’s first two solar trees were installed Thursday morning at Destin’s HarborWalk Village. The project is a partnership with Gulf Power, Legendary Inc. and the City of Destin to showcase sustainable energy.
“These two solar trees are capable of generating electricity, in fact, they generate enough electricity to power, on average, six school classrooms every single day of the year,” said Mike Spoor, vice president of Gulf Power.
Spoor said there are a total of four solar trees in the Northwest Florida area, but the company is “just getting started” and more will be sprouting up. A year and a half ago, Florida Power & Light announced their plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030, that's not including the solar trees.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Florida ranks fourth in the nation for solar energy generation with 3% of the state’s electricity coming from solar power, but some experts say there’s still untapped potential when it comes to the Sunshine State.
Part of the mission behind the solar trees is to provide more education about solar energy.
“Each one has a QR code on them and when you scan that with your phone you can learn not only about these trees but solar power in general,” said Spoor.
Mayor Gary Jarvis called the solar trees a “visual example” of innovative ideas and joked that the City wouldn’t mind two more for their new Leonard Destin park.
“This is exciting because it’s new technology and it’s going to only increase and expand,” he said. “We’re fixing to underground (utilities) on Highway 98 and harden up more of our infrastructure.”
Developer and CEO of Legendary, Inc. Peter Bos admits he doesn’t know a lot about solar energy. He’s hopeful the next generation takes note of the solar trees next time they’re walking by Destin’s fishing fleet.
“As much as this is important for adults it’s probably more important for me that the children see this and that they come down and when they see this they can start understanding what’s possible,” he said.
As part of his development philosophy, Bos said he considers sustainability in terms of keeping cars off the road in an already congested area. His developments such as HarborWalk and Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club were designed to be walkable and eliminate the need for cars.
“This area is frankly burdened,” he said. “We have few roads running east and west so anything we can do to create whole environments where you get in the car one time and not 10 times is better for all of us.”