FORT PIERCE – Florida Power & Light Co. may build wind turbines at Frederick Douglass Beach and adjoining John Brooks Park on South Hutchinson Island, utility and St. Lucie County officials said Wednesday.
“Those are pretty much underused parks,” St. Lucie County Commissioner Charles Grande said.
But Commissioners Doug Coward and Paula Lewis said they wanted to know more about the project.
“I’m not excited about the use of public beach property,” Coward said.
FPL is considering up to nine wind turbines to produce 20 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 4,000 homes, said Henrietta McBee, the company’s director of product development.
Six wind turbines could be built on public property and the remainder on land FPL owns near the St. Lucie nuclear power plant, McBee said at a meeting of representatives from home and property owner associations.
John Brooks Park, formerly known as Green Turtle Beach, is a 400-acre parcel with 4,000 feet of oceanfront purchased under the state’s Save Our Coast program in the 1980s.
St. Lucie County took over the land in 1988 and renamed it for the late John Brooks, a conservationist who worked to get the state to buy the land and save it from development.
Frederick Douglass Beach, named for the abolitionist editor and orator, is a narrow strip adjoining Ocean Village and Fort Pierce’s southern city limits.
County Attorney Dan McIntyre, who had not heard about the sites, said he would check the legality of putting wind turbines on county beach property.
“Typically the commission has allowed things if the use will not interfere with the recreational use of the land,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s true in this case.”
FPL spokeswoman Sharon Bennett said later Wednesday that the sites might not be the final selection.
“We’re still in the process of determining the exact parcels,” she said. “We will be delineating the wetlands and other features on the various sites.”
McBee said these would be the first wind turbines in southeastern Florida. The closest are operated by FPL Energy in West Virginia and by the Tennessee Valley Authority in Tennessee.
FPL officials are pleased with the reception the St. Lucie project has received, McBee said. It’s a warmer reception than in 2005, when commissioners unanimously rejected FPL’s plan for a coal-burning plant in southwestern St. Lucie County.
To generate wind, three 200-foot blades would be mounted on towers.
An artist’s rendition shows the wind turbines towering above the two nuclear reactors the company owns.
FPL officials have said for years that there was not enough wind in Florida to operate wind turbines, but McBee said improved technology could make the project feasible.
By Jim Reeder
11 October 2007
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