Florida Power & Light Co.’s plan for wind turbines on Hutchinson Island comes to a head tonight as County Commissioners vote on whether to recommend use of state-owned land at Blind Creek Park for the project.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at county commission chambers, 2300 Virginia Ave., Fort Pierce. Signs advertising the meeting have popped up on protest signs along Indian River Drive, where many residents are opposed to the proposal.
FPL wants to place three wind turbines on state-owned land at Blind Creek that is managed by the county and six machines on its own land at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant. The project cost is estimated about $60 million and the state has already awarded the project $2.5 million in renewable energy grants.
In order to use Blind Creek, the company needs an easement from the state and is set to go before the state Acquisition and Restoration Council, which oversees the use of state conservation land, for that permission on April 10 and 11. Because the county leases the land from the state, it must also gives its permission for FPL to gain an easement.
A state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman has said if the county doesn’t approve the easement, the state will not give its permission either.
Because three of the five County Commissioners have said publicly they are against using Blind Creek Park for the wind machines, it is likely the commission tonight will recommend against using Blind Creek for the project. Commissioners Joe Smith and Charles Grande have not taken a position as of last week.
The commission is expected to send a letter to ARC after tonight’s meeting asking them not to approve the Blind Creek easement.
FPL has recently declined to comment on the turbines, and it is unclear whether the commission’s vote will derail the project completely or if the company will merely revise its plans in light of the news.
In addition to signing off on an easement at Blind Creek, the county would also need to approve zoning and conditional use permits as well as a waiver of height restrictions to allow the machines on the island.
Proponents of the technology say it is a form of clean energy that could help combat climate change and creates no pollution. Critics have taken issue with the physical appearance of the turbines, which would stretch to more than 400 feet in height, as well as the negative effects they could have on the environment and wildlife.
The last time the turbine issue was on a county agenda, during a daytime meeting, opponents packed commission chambers and spoke for several hours during public comment against the project. A handful of residents spoke in favor of the turbines during the meeting, but most were opposed.
By Derek Simmonsen
18 March 2008
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