While Florida Power & Light Co. is moving forward with plans to bring wind turbines to St. Lucie County, a group of residents is trying to spread information about the controversial project.
The 3-month-old grass-roots group, Save St. Lucie Alliance, says it wants to get accurate information out to residents. On Saturday, about 40 residents attended a meeting at the Fort Pierce Community Center, where Brad Jones from Naples, N.Y., presented his findings and perspectives.
“Turbines don’t generate electricity very often,” said Jones, who has been fighting against industrial wind projects in New York for many years. “If you can make the wind blow, then you can make this work.”
FPL’s current proposal would place six turbines on FPL property and three on a single parcel of land co-owned by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District.
Although Jones lives in New York, he believes Florida is not a viable state for a wind turbine project. He said Florida winds average less than 8 miles an hour.
FPL debates Jones’ information.
“Wind turbines have improved a lot, even in the last three years. They really can make a great amount of electricity with a small resource,” spokeswoman Sharon Bennett said. “The newest and latest technology can operate very efficiently with wind that is less than 12 miles an hour.”
With the turbines, which would be the first of their kind in Florida, FPL expects to generate enough electricity to provide power for the 3,000 homes in the south part of Hutchinson Island, Bennett said.
FPL picked St. Lucie County 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.
However, after Saturday’s informational meeting, County Commissioner Doug Coward said as he learns more, he’s becoming more skeptical about the project.
“I would like to see FPL shift away from this project and into working on a project with the county commission on a solar demonstration project,” Coward said. “I would like us to partner with them to try to promote solar energy. I’m much more excited about that.”
During the presentation, Jones spoke of some of turbines’ safety concerns, like sound frequency and vibrations.
FPL officials said those are myths.
“The newest wind turbines are not noisy. Ambient noise from wind and waves would typically be louder than the actual turbines,” Bennett said.
For Julie Zahniser, the founder of the 72-member Save St. Lucie Alliance, she hopes people learn both sides and are informed. She’s concerned about what the turbines can do to her property value – she lives on Indian River Drive – and the effect on the community.
“Once people know all the facts, support for industrial wind evaporates,” said Zahniser, a lawyer and mother of twin daughters. “For me, the dilemma is – I love it here. I don’t want to move. But I will move if they build this.”
By Kelly Tyko
3 February 2008
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