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Southwest Florida’s Cleantech Industry

Supporting Sustainable Communities for Work and Play

Clean technologies (Cleantech) is a target industry for Southwest Florida which is rich with natural resources, diverse research and development efforts, and the goal transforming research into commercial uses. Cleantech jobs are in ample supply such as clean energy generation, energy efficient products, green buildings, water and bioremediation technologies and other eco-friendly areas. Here are some examples of Cleantech operations within the Southwest Florida region.

Algenol BioTech

Algenol Biotech is a leader within the biotechnology field that manufactures multiple types of algae from molecular to commercial scale. The state-of-the art algae farm in Fort Myers has been built over the a period of more than ten years.

Their clean blue-green algae cultivation process yields high quality, sustainable and affordable products.  Algae produce a variety of proteins, oils, and polysaccharides with potential commercial application. Algenol works to develop new high-value products in the food, nutraceutical, cosmetic and personal care industries.

The Cleantech company consistently seeks to fill jobs for scientists and engineers to be among their technical leaders in downstream product extraction and purification.

Babcock Ranch- Sustainable City

Babcock Ranch is a unique, eco-friendly 17,000-acre planned community under development in Southwest Florida. Sustainability is at the core of everything done at Babcock Ranch. From the building materials they use to the energy source that powers it and everything else in between, Babcock Ranch is minimizing its environmental footprint. Stradling Charlotte County and Lee County, Babcock Ranch will ultimately include 19,500 homes and six million square feet of commercial space.

The solar powered town has installed an up to 40 megawatt hour battery storage system to be linked with Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) 74.5 megawatt Babcock Ranch solar plant. Also, all homes at Babcock Ranch must receive a Bronze Standard of Certification or higher from the Florida Green Building Coalition.

Their advanced transportation system within the community adopts leading and developing technologies to provide eco-friendly ways to get around town that are more convenient and affordable than driving your own car. In addition to electric-powered, self-driving shuttles running along set routes, Babcock Ranch is an early implementation site for on-demand self-driving cars that you can schedule with an app on your smart phone.

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Eco-friendly Culture and Campus

The remarkably green and environmentally friendly campus of FGCU is located in Southwest Florida and features a variety of wildlife living around. Students are provided many resources to to teach them and encourage them to recycle and preserve the natural resources on and near campus.  Sustainable living is a culture at the school and inspires students to pursue jobs in Cleantech.

FGCU has deployed several eco-friendly systems including solar powered compactors, energy efficient lighting and recycling bins throughout campus. In addition, student housing utilizes solar panels and are connected to ice thermal air conditioning system.

The school placed solar compactors in many high traffic areas along campus to eliminate the waste and the litter.  One hundred percent of their energy is from the sun and consumes very little energy. The units constantly work to compact the trash as it is placed into them. This reduces the need for trash pickup and saves money and fuel. Rooms on campus have energy-efficient lighting. Lights will automatically turn off when there is no movement within the room and illuminate again when someone walks into the room. Florida Gulf Coast University has one of the largest ice-thermal storage plants in Florida which creates an energy efficient means of providing air conditioning to academic, student and other buildings.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Water Bottle Solution

Cleantech solutions can trickle down to support the Southwest Florida environment in which residents and visitors both work and play. In 2012 J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge (DDWS) located in the subtropical barrier island of Sanibel, Florida ended its sale of water packaged in single-use plastic water bottles. Despite the revenue loss the refuge took the step towards operating a more sustainable location and encouraging the use of refillable bottles. DDWS Executive Director Birgie Miller, who oversaw the switch said, “The reusable bottles were still made of plastic, which uses unsustainable and earth-unfriendly petroleum to produce. Plus, they were flimsy and difficult to clean.”

In 2018, DDWS has a better solution.  Visitors can now purchase chilled, eco-friendly Just Water in the Refuge Nature Store. Earlier this year, Ms. Miller and her staff discovered Just Water, a start-up business by an eco-conscious group that includes actor Will Smith. Its container consists of 82 percent renewable resources – primarily paperboard sourced from forests where new trees replace those harvested.

The cap and shoulder components are derived from sugarcane, a renewable resource. The materials represent a 47 to 74 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission compared to PET plastic bottles. Other Southwest Florida barrier island organizations are following suit. Among those making the change have been The Sanctuary Health & Wellness Center, CROW, Captiva Cruises, Cast About Charters and Adventures in Paradise.

Pure Image Productions’ Paradise Reef Documentary

The Marine industry is vibrant in Southwest Florida and another example of the region’s Cleantech operations. Pure Image Productions in Naples, Florida plays an active role in preserving that. They helped create a powerful documentary film that tells a story about Southwest Florida residents who lead the initiative to secure $1.3 million in British Petroleum (BP) disaster funds and bring together Collier County, the City of Naples and the City of Marco Island to support an artificial reef project to deploy 18,000 tons of concrete to create 36 artificial reefs along Florida’s Paradise Coast.

Filmmaker John Scoular and Executive Producers Captain Harry Julian and Captain Lance H. Julian of Pure Image and Marine Team International, a marine and underwater photography company in Naples, Florida used captivating aerial footage and in-depth interviews.  The film also shows the symbiotic relationship between, and the natural beauty of the Everglades, the Ten Thousand Islands, the Gulf of Mexico and Collier County, Florida. “While the reef is the anchor point for the story, the film follows the water flow inland and we see the synergy of Southwest Florida’s ecosystems at play,” says Harry Julian.

An additional $565,000 in private donations was administered through Community Foundation of Collier County. These funds fully funded the artificial reef project.  No taxpayer funds were utilized. The project is anticipated to generate an estimated $30 million dollars annually and will create vital marine life habitats to an otherwise barren, sandy bottom.

Intech Environmentally Friendly Printing

Intech Printing & Direct Mail, Inc. in Naples, Florida is among a group of environmentally friendly printers in the United States.  Paper being used comes from well-managed sources. About 85 percent of the paper used for printing comes from forests managed in a way to sustain the resources as opposed to harvesting it and moving on to another forest. Their use of soy inks and the paper from well-managed forests is a factor in choosing Intech over other printers for customers who share the same values for environmental sustainability.  Since 2008 the company has invested in auditing and records retention required to remain certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative.