Bowing to unexpected public opposition, Florida Power & Light is abandoning plans to use a state-owned beach on Hutchinson Island for Florida’s first industrial wind farm.
Instead, the utility will try to confine a smaller version of its original $61 million clean-energy proposal on its nearby coastal property, adjacent to its St. Lucie nuclear-power plant.
“We’ve spent a lot of time listening to the concerns of commissioners as well as the residents of St. Lucie County, and that’s what led us to our decision to limit the project to our property,” said Eric Silagy, FPL vice president for development.
“We’ve built wind farms in 55 locations across the country, and we just didn’t expect this kind of backlash,” he added.
The largest producer of wind energy in the nation, FPL had planned to erect nine turbines – each 400 feet tall – that it said would generate energy capable of powering more than 3,000 homes. It wanted to put six of the 2.3 megawatt turbines on a popular surf spot it owns south of the plant, and the other three just to the north at Blind Creek, a 400-acre river-to-ocean parcel that the county and state helped buy in 1998 for $13 million.
That appalled environmentalists and St. Lucie County Commissioner Doug Coward, who as county environmental planner had asked voters to approve a bond issue to buy the land. They warned that letting a private utility build on public conservation land would violate the public trust and invite projects in parks across the state.
Coupled with a vocal grass-roots campaign, the arguments apparently were convincing. The third of five county commissioners recently announced she would not support windmills at Blind Creek.
FPL’s decision to restrict the wind farm to its property removes the biggest obstacle, but opponents plan to fight on. It’s unclear whether FPL has the three votes needed to proceed.
By Maya Bell
19 March 2008
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