St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Craft, an early proponent of putting wind turbines on South Hutchinson Island, announced Tuesday night he has withdrawn his support for the project.
His change of heart comes as commissioners have grown increasingly critical of Florida Power & Light Co.’s plans to build three wind turbines on public property and six on its land near the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant.
Craft said Tuesday the turbines would not generate enough electricity to make them worthwhile when alternative methods of conservation are available.
Craft’s announcement at the end of the commission meeting means there’s one vote against the project entirely, while County Commissioner Doug Coward opposes putting them on publicly owned conservation land.
Commissioners Charles Grande, Paula Lewis and Joe Smith said they haven’t made up their minds on the issue.
Craft, who is seeking reelection this year, denied that’s a factor in his change of heart.
“If that were the case, I would have stopped the conversation about wind turbines before it began,” Craft said.
Coward and other critics have said that land at Blind Creek Park, where the three would be built, was bought for conservation and recreation purposes and windmills should not be allowed there.
“I’m pleased with Craft’s comments,” Coward said. “Everybody was so enamored with green energy at the beginning we didn’t educate ourselves.”
Coward said there’s little wind along the St. Lucie coastline and FPL should research solar and other alternatives and the Treasure Coast Research & Education Park being developed west of Kings Highway.
Craft said a teenager who spoke at the most recent commission discussion of wind turbines reminded him of alternative energy sources that were mentioned during FPL’s effort to build a coal-burning plant in St. Lucie County.
He reviewed videos and now believes the utility company would accomplish more with conservation programs and putting solar panels on thousands of houses.
The nine turbines are supposed to produce 20 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 3,000 houses for a year.
When FPL’s proposal came to light, Craft said he suggested putting them on public beaches so everyone can see the county’s commitment to green energy.
FPL first proposed turbines on John Brooks and Frederick Douglass parks but dropped those plans in favor of Blind Creek and its own land.
The state’s Acquisition and Recreation Council was scheduled to discuss use of public property at its meeting in February but postponed it until April so county commissioners can take an official stance.
Commissioners must approve the use of the public land, in addition to the state council.
By Jim Reeder
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
5 March 2008
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