St. Lucie County shouldn’t allow wind turbines anywhere on Hutchinson Island even though Florida Power & Light Co. cut its plan from nine to six turbines, several residents told county commissioners Tuesday night.
“FPL’s proposal for six windmills on its own property has all of the same environmental concerns as Blind Creek Park,” said Julie Zahniser of the Save St. Lucie Alliance.
She said there are threatened and endangered species in that area, and she doubts there’s enough wind to make it feasible to generate enough electricity.
But other residents supported FPL’s plans, claiming the proposed turbines would provide a non-polluting alternative source of energy with oil prices rising.
The debate came hours after FPL officials announced they would give up their idea of building three turbines at Blind Creek, public land just north of their St. Lucie Nuclear Plant. But they still plan to build six turbines on their Hutchinson Island land.
“The project would be specifically limited to FPL’s property. No public land whatsoever,” said Eric Silagy, FPL’s vice president of development, said at FPL Group’s headquarters in Juno Beach.
The move dramatically shortens the stretch of Hutchinson Island that would be affected by the wind turbines. The northernmost turbine now would sit about 3 miles from the southernmost structure. Had the three Blind Creek turbines been included, they would have stretched for 9 or 10 miles.
None of the wind turbines would be closer than 2,510 feet to the nuclear plant or the closest residential development, the Sands condominiums.
County commissioners still must decide whether they will approve height variances and other permits to allow wind turbines to be built anywhere on the island.
FPL officials said a six-turbine project is viable and would produce 13.8 megawatts of electricity, enough to serve 1,800 houses or 3,600 people.
Silagy said he hopes to get the go-ahead by fall. Construction of all six turbines would take about eight months.
But Tuesday night’s debate shows the turbines still face major hurdles, even without those planned on public land.
Three county commissioners have said they opposed FPL’s proposal for the turbines, two because of the public land issue and one because he doesn’t think it’s worthwhile to build so few.
Until FPL’s surprise announcement, the board was expected Tuesday to ask the state to reject FPL’s bid to use public land.
Commissioners decided they would discuss FPL’s original request to use Blind Creek even though the company withdrew its plan.
They will draft a new letter to state officials expressing their concerns over legal use of conservation lands and the net environmental benefit of such projects.
Several public hearings are required before the turbines could be approved.
Silagy said the company had been weighing the decision for “well over a month,” and the timing of the morning announcement was not related to the meeting scheduled Tuesday night.
“This was not an analysis that just took place because they put this on the agenda,” Silagy said.
The scaled-back proposal will cost about $45 million, he said.
If approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, the project would increase the average customer’s bill by about 3 cents a month, FPL reported.
The wind farm would be the first in the Southeast and the first in Florida.
FPL officials say the St. Lucie site is ideal because of its higher wind speeds – the average annual speed is about 14 mph – and because existing transmission lines from the nuclear plant could be used to transmit power.
“This makes a lot of sense on a lot of different levels,” Silagy said.
By Jim Reeder and Eve Samples
Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
19 March 2008
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