This morning’s St. Lucie Board of County Commission meeting could see the end of the Florida Power & Light wind turbine project on Hutchinson Island.
But don’t bet on it.
Rumor has it some commissioners would prefer to “punt” and delay a decision until they have more information. The St. Lucie Chamber of Commerce wants its members to persuade the commission to do just that.
Commissioner Doug Coward, on the other hand, would love to see the thing stopped dead in its tracks. Now.
He spoke to about 120 residents of the Ocean Village condominiums Monday afternoon, urging them to show up at today’s commission meeting and voice their opposition, in particular, to siting three turbines on state land.
The land was bought with voter- referendum money in the mid-90s, Coward reminded the crowd, to preserve wildlife habitat and protect environmentally sensitive land. Allowing FPL to erect pieces of what amounts to an industrial complex on it would be breaking a sacred trust, Coward argued, one that more than 70 percent of voters said yes to in 1994.
It also, according to County Attorney Dan McIntyre, might be illegal.
Coward hopes public opposition to using sensitive public land will make the rest of the project a moot point. FPL officials have indicated that unless they get the OK on all nine units, the project would be dead.
The wind turbine opposition comes from a multitude of angles: the 40-story height and appearance of the towers and their whirling blades wider than a jumbo jet; the possibly lethal effects on wildlife (especially birds); the unpleasant “strobe” effects spinning turbine blades tend to have on those living nearby; the noise that’s been described as like a wrapped brick in a clothes dryer; reduction in property values; the possible safety threat to the nuclear plant from what’s attractively called “blade throw,” should one ever come off in high winds. Hey, it’s happened.
My chief objection is still that the project simply doesn’t make economic sense. Nine turbines? If this is an FPL science experiment to determine if wind turbines are feasible along Florida’s coast, then why not build just one or two?
If this is more about tax breaks and making money from subsidies, then come clean, FPL.
FPL is applying for a $2.5 million grant from the state to offset the $60 million cost of the turbines. Yet only 3,000 homes would be served. Doesn’t sound like a very good investment of your money to me.
FPL also can’t seem to keep its story straight.
Recent public presentations show large, glossy color renderings of what the turbines might look like. The pretty pictures downplay the sheer dominance of the things. See? They wouldn’t look that bad.
Yet in its state application, FPL sounds like a tourism booster. The open, undeveloped nature of this land, it says, would mean that residents, tourists – even boaters on the ocean – could see the turbines for many miles, which would be an advertisement for the green county of St. Lucie.
I think many St. Lucie residents would like to see us stay green. I don’t think this project helps that goal in any shape or form.
The county’s official tourism motto is “Still unspoiled.”
That might need a re-think if this one goes through.
By Anthony Westbury
12 February 2008
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