County commissioners expressed support Tuesday for bringing wind turbines to Hutchinson Island, but were divided over whether to put them on public land.
Florida Power & Light Co. has proposed up to nine turbines, which would be the first of their kind in the state, at several different locations on the island. Four would be on public land and the other five would be located at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, the first on the grounds of a nuclear plant site in the United States.
Commissioners didn’t make any firm decisions during an informal meeting Tuesday, but agreed to make a field trip in the near future to visit the sites. FPL is also expected to seek approval for test drilling at those sites in the next few weeks.
County Commissioner Chris Craft said he supported the idea of using public land, seeing it as a natural extension of the county’s conservation efforts, as the alternative energy turbines would help reduce pollution and fight global warming. He suggested seeing what benefits FPL could offer, such as in the form of money paid out to the county for parks and conservation, in exchange for use of public land.
He was frequently at odds with County Commissioner Doug Coward who said he liked the idea, but opposed placing the turbines on public land. Coward asked the county to investigate whether there are other private properties on the island that would be better for the project.
“I’m troubled by the concept of basically industrializing those conservation lands, albeit for a good cause,” Coward said.
FPL currently operates 53 wind farms containing more than 6,000 turbines in 16 states. The company says there are no emissions from the technology and limited impact on the surrounding environment.
FPL has said the wind turbines have to be located near the ocean but far enough away from A1A so as not to impact traffic, limiting the number of sites that could be considered.
“We believe this project will help determine what the future of wind is in Florida,” said FPL Vice President Eric Silagy.
The turbines would be mounted on a steel tower that is roughly 14 to 16 feet in diameter and between 322 to 417 feet tall, measured from the ground to the top of a blade when fully extended. It is expected the turbines would serve about 2,800 customers each year depending on how many and the type of turbine.
By Derek Simmonsen
27 November 2007
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