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FPL's plan to bring wind power to Hutchinson Island attracts controversy  

In a field off the parking lot of John Brooks park sits a tract of land that is at the heart of a growing public debate.

The empty parkland, bordered by the ocean to the east and a thin strand of trees to the west, could soon be home to one of nine 400-foot tall wind turbines, the first of their kind in the state. The Florida Power & Light Co. plan to bring wind power to St. Lucie County has drawn praise from some residents, but also scorn from those who don’t want the alternative energy machines to be put on public land at John Brooks and Frederick Douglass parks.

Residents interested in getting a first-hand look at the sites can join county commissioners on a tour of the land on Friday.

Dickie Brooks, whose conservationist father is the namesake for John Brooks park, plans to attend Friday’s tour along with her mother Jane Brooks. While they have no problem with the idea of wind power in Florida, they are opposed to placing the devices on public land, she said.

“Personally I’m interested in exactly where FPL is talking about siting these,” Brooks said. “I’ve seen the map, but I’m interested in actually walking out there and having them point them out.”

Besides four public park sites, FPL wants to put five wind turbines on its own property, though one of the sites actually sits not far from Walton Rocks beach.

Each turbine structure is about 14 to 16 feet in diameter and requires about an acre to an acre and a half of land to sit on, said Eric Silagy, an FPL vice president. The turbines create no pollutants and require no county services to operate.

“It’s very low impact,” Silagy said. “That’s one of the benefits of this technology.”

However, the turbines require a small dirt road – big enough for a pickup truck to drive down – to be added in order for technicians to service it. The shadow cast by the towers will also be noticeable at certain times of day on local beaches and the structures would be the biggest thing on the island – the nearest buildings are about 20 stories tall, about half the size of the proposed wind machines.

As for noise, FPL officials said it will be minimal and the company is doing bird and environmental studies to make sure the turbines wouldn’t disrupt local wildlife. FPL estimates the project would bring millions to the county through a lease agreement and property taxes.

So far Commissioner Doug Coward has come out against the public land proposal while Commissioner Chris Craft has voiced support for it.

TOUR THE SITES

”Possible wind turbine sites can be toured by residents

? Members of the public interested in touring the sites by bus should meet at 8:45 a.m. Friday at the county building, 2300 Virginia Ave., Fort Pierce. The tour lasts until 11 a.m. Reserve a spot by calling (772) 462-1400.

By Derek Simmonsen

TCPalm

5 December 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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