HUTCHINSON ISLAND – Commissioners seem to like the idea of wind turbines, but the question of whether to stick them on public land is up in the air.
Florida Power & Light Co. has proposed placing up to nine turbines, the first of their kind in the state, at several locations on the island. Four would be on public land at Frederick Douglass and John Brooks parks; the other five would be at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, the first to land on the grounds of a nuclear plant in the United States.
Commissioners didn’t make any firm decisions during an informal meeting Tuesday, but agreed to make a field trip to the sites soon. FPL is expected to come before the commission in the next few weeks to seek approval for test drilling at the sites.
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 tubular towers would help reduce pollution and fight global warming.
Craft suggested seeing what benefits FPL could offer, such as money to the county for parks and conservation in exchange for use of public land.
“If we don’t correct the climate change issue we’re dealing with here … the parks that we have bought for conservation are eventually going to go away,” Craft said.
Craft 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 staff to investigate whether there is private property on the island better suited for the project.
“I’m troubled by the concept of basically industrializing those conservation lands, albeit for a good cause,” Coward said.
Jane Brooks, widow of Johns Brooks, the conservationist whom one of the parks was named for, said the land was set aside to keep it in its natural state.
“I can’t see how the installation of huge commercial whirling machines would fit those purposes,” she said.
FPL officials said the wind turbines have to be near the ocean but far enough away from State Road A1A so as not to impact traffic, limiting the number of sites that could be considered.
The company says there are no emissions from the turbines and limited impact on the surrounding environment. Though critics of wind projects in other states have complained about noise, the negative effect on birds and wildlife and the possibility of a blinking effect in the windmills’ shadow as the blades move back and forth, FPL said it doesn’t expect any of those issues to be a problem.
The turbines could “help determine what the future of wind is in Florida,” said FPL Vice President Eric Silagy.
Getting approval from the federal government to add turbines to the nuclear plant site could take up to two years, Silagy said, meaning the public sites would likely be developed before any FPL property. The construction can be done in about eight months.
“Bottom line is, we don’t want to do a project that the community doesn’t support,” Silagy said. “We want this to be a win-win or we don’t want to do this.”
?FPL Energy operates 53 wind farms in 16 states containing more than 6,000 turbines.
?Nine sites are being considered for turbines in St. Lucie County, four on public land and five on FPL property.
?The turbines would be mounted on steel towers 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. They require about an acre of land.
?They operate at wind speeds of 10 mph to 55 mph.
?It is expected the turbines would serve about 2,800 customers each year depending on how many and the type of turbine.
? FPL says construction would employ 30 people and ultimately have a $7 million economic impact on the county
By Derek Simmonsen
28 November 2007
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