St. Lucie County commissioners decided Tuesday they’ll take a field trip to John Brooks Park soon to see just where wind turbines would be located if they allow Florida Power & Light Co. to use public property to generate electricity.
Brooks’ widow, Jane, and daughter Dickie were the only ones to join County Commissioner Doug Coward in questioning the proposal to put turbines on land purchased for preservation and recreation.
Commissioner Paula Lewis said she sees both sides of the argument and suggested the inspection trip.
Jane Brooks, who has been active for 30 years in conservation efforts and worked with her husband for the state to buy the property, said she favors alternative energy sources but not on public beaches.
She cited a management plan that says John Brooks Park was purchased to “maintain the land in as natural a state as possible” and to “preserve a section of coastline from further development, protect its native plants and animals and provide recreational opportunities for the people of St. Lucie County.”
Coward said that allowing wind turbines contradicts promises made to voters when they approved a bond issue to buy beach access for preservation and recreation.
“How can a 400-foot-tall windmill not affect the use and enjoyment of the beach access?” he said.
Commissioner Chris Craft said he was the one who suggested FPL use public property for four of the nine proposed wind turbines.
“I said they should put them in the most conspicuous place to make people think of energy conservation and St. Lucie County,” he said.
FPL officials said the public land is the only site that meets criteria for keeping the turbines a certain distance from State Road A1A, buildings and each other.
“I’m not convinced those are the only sites,” Coward said. He said the county should consider tax breaks and other incentives to encourage FPL to acquire privately owned property.
FPL Vice President Eric Silagy said wind energy is now a viable alternative to importing oil to generate electricity.
“It’s no longer a science experiment,” he said. “St. Lucie County will determine the future of windmills in Florida.”
He added: “Wind power is not a silver bullet but an important part of a fleet of electric generators.”
By Jim Reeder
28 November 2007
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