Windmills in Broward? Advocates think the area needs more of the airborne devices, even if their chances for success are slim
BY Diana Moskovitz
If a few people get their way, a few more windmills will dot the Broward landscape in the next few years – more as a symbol of the county’s agrarian roots and a nod to environmental sensitivity than a true alternative power source.
Consider the visions of these three:
“¢ Consultant Roy Rogers, one of Weston’s founding fathers, wants to line the Broward stretch of Interstate 95 with them.
“¢ The Broward chapter of the Florida Farm Bureau wants to scatter them in some of the last remaining green space to remind people of the rural past and maybe provide some electricity.
“¢ Kaizer Talib wants just one, the modern kind, to help power his Fort Lauderdale house.
All three have obstacles to overcome, from South Florida’s inconsistent winds to maneuvering local bureaucracy and just finding a place to put them.
”It’s a demonstration in the way we should be thinking,” said Rogers, referring to windmills’ connection to the rural past and their potential as power sources. “It’s going to make people think.”
Windmills once ruled the rural American skyline. Early settlers used them to pump water and generate electricity in the days before power lines crisscrossed much of the country.
While developing Weston as Arvida senior vice president, Rogers found remnants of the old towers and has been campaigning to bring them back ever since.
He helped build six old-style windmills in Weston and two more in other parts of Broward. Like their historical counterparts, they pump water, only now for small gardens around them.
Lining I-95 is a more daunting task.
Rogers is working on his first one, in Deerfield Beach at the Hillsboro Boulevard exit. JM Family Enterprises donated $10,000 to pay for building the windmill, and the city has agreed to maintain it, Rogers said.
Now he has to sell the idea to federal transportation officials. ”It’s so easy to get people turned on to the vision,” said Rogers, who has been working on that windmill proposal for more than a year. “It’s so hard to be patient and let all those linkages take place with bureaucracy to do what’s necessary.”
The local Farm Bureau sees windmills as both pieces of history and power sources.
Chapter President Fred Segal said he would like to see them in less developed towns like Davie and Southwest Ranches.
He has one spot in mind – a ”farm park” being discussed in Davie that would showcase how agriculture affects everyday life. ”They do have a number of potential uses, as well as the fact they look nice, too,” Segal said.
Windmills began their modern-day comeback far from their farming and ranching roots with interest in wind power as an alternative to fossil fuels like oil and coal. These windmills, also called turbines, have thinner shafts and blades. The wind pushes the blades, activating a generator inside. The generator’s energy is captured and sent through a wire to a substation.
FPL Energy, a sister company of Florida Power & Light, has 47 wind farms in 15 states. The industry also has spawned related companies like WindLogics, a St. Paul, Minn., business that helps people decide if wind power is viable where they live.
FPL has said for years that Florida does not have the strong, steady winds to consistently produce power. But the utility is looking at doing its first Florida wind project, two to five turbines designed for low winds, along either of the state’s coasts, spokeswoman Rachel Scott said.
But that spot probably will be far from Broward. Palm Beach County north to Jacksonville or Sarasota north to the Panhandle look like the best places in studies so far, Scott said.
Harnessing hurricane winds won’t work, because winds faster than 55 mph shut down the turbines.
A better chance at success are personal turbines for individual homes, an industry known as ”small wind.” STRONG RESISTANCE
One ”small wind” could be Fort Lauderdale’s Talib, who wants to erect a 55-foot tall windmill with six-foot-long propellers in front of his Victoria Park home.
The windmill must be that tall to reach consistent winds not blocked by beachfront condos and hotels. The windmill is part of the architect’s plans to free his house from FPL, relying on a combination of solar and wind power.
Fort Lauderdale’s adjustments board denied Talib’s request for an exemption from height regulations to put up the windmill.
Some neighbors, including the neighborhood civic association, also opposed the windmill. Association President Thornie Jarrett said concerns included safety and the windmill’s looks. ”We would all be in favor of the ways of getting more efficiency in our homes, but we just didn’t feel that this was the answer,” Jarrett said. “There are a lot of answers out there, and that just wasn’t the one we felt was appropriate.”
FIGHT GOES ON
Talib is undeterred. The windmill wouldn’t be ugly, he said, and would be built to withstand 140-mph winds. It would be no taller than the masts on some sailboats docked in a canal at the edge of the neighborhood, he said.
The experience also helped him find other local alternative energy enthusiasts, like Mike Wallace.
Wallace wanted to put up a wind turbine for his Davie home, but town officials told him there would be hurricane concerns.
Talib said he plans to ask for permission again, or sue the town: “I’m determined to get it installed in my house.”
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