FPL now wants to put windmills on state land instead of county land
HUTCHINSON ISLAND – Florida Power & Light Co. has dropped its proposal to put wind turbines on two county-owned parks and will instead try to put them on inaccessible, state-owned land, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The new site is a single parcel of undeveloped land, covered in dense vegetation, north of the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant and Blind Creek Beach on Hutchinson Island. It is jointly owned by the state and South Florida Water Management District and borders FPL property by the water, according to a statement released by the company.
“Our initial discussions with them have been very positive about the possibility of locating those turbines here,” said FPL spokeswoman Sharon Bennett.
The amended proposal would put three turbines on the state land and six on FPL property near the power plant. The previous proposal would have put five on FPL property and four on county land at John Brooks and Frederick Douglass parks. The turbines would be the first of their kind in Florida.
The decision comes after local residents raised concerns about placing the turbines at the parks, in part because John Brooks Park was purchased by the county specifically for conservation purposes.
People held signs and protested during a tour of the proposed sites in December, raising concerns about the height and noise of the structures, the impact they would have on birds and the environment, and their appearance.
“After a lot of discussion with folks in the county and folks in the state, and reviewing analysis of the coastline of St. Lucie County, we really felt that we wanted to listen to all the concerns and be really good neighbors in the community and be sensitive to citizens views,” Bennett said.
The company is continuing to do environmental and bird impact studies in the area, she said. Within the next two months, the company expects to approach county commissioners for approval to drill for soil samples at the new sites.
The turbines would be mounted on steel towers and reach up to 417 feet tall, measured from the ground to the top of a blades when they are at their peak in their rotation. FPL has said it picked St. Lucie for the project because it has a plant in the county, there is open land on the coast and the commission has been supportive of alternative energy.
County Commission chairman Joe Smith and County Administrator Doug Anderson toured FPL Energy’s Horse Hollow Wind Energy Centers near Abilene, Texas, last week. Smith said he has not made a final decision on whether the turbines should be in the county, but said after his tour he didn’t think the machines were as noisy or as ugly as some critics have said.
“It sounds like FPL has taken an opportunity to listen to the public on this issue regarding public access and making sure they provide the best plan for the board to consider,” Smith said Wednesday. He said he wants to see firmer details of FPL’s proposal and is keeping an open mind until then on the project.
County Commissioner Doug Coward, who opposed placing the turbines on public land, said he was pleased FPL had dropped plans for John Brooks and Frederick Douglass parks. However, he wants to learn more about the new site FPL has proposed before drawing any conclusions, he said.
“This is not just a St. Lucie County issue. It’s a precedent-setting case for Florida,” he said.
County Commissioner Chris Craft said in a statement he is “committed to bringing renewable power to St. Lucie County,” but a final decision is “premature until the county completes an analysis of the pros and cons.”
FPL wants the turbines, which would power about 3,000 homes per year under good wind conditions, ready in 2009.
“We feel like we’ve got the best location to make that a reality,” Bennett said.
By Derek Simmonsen
17 January 2008
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