A new study projects average wind speeds on Hutchinson Island would be strong enough for Florida Power & Light Co.’s wind turbine plan to work, the company announced Tuesday.
The study was done by WindLogics Inc., a company owned by FPL Energy, a sister company to FPL. The findings project the average wind speed would be 13.8 mph, enough to generate 13.8 megawatts of power or enough electricity for about 3,600 people, according to a company news release.
The total height of the turbines, including the height of a blade when it is at the peak of its rotation, is 410 to 415 feet. The readings were taken from roughly 196 feet above ground and, based on the data, the study extrapolated what the speeds would be at 262.5 feet, which the company says is about the height where wind power is needed.
The wind speed drops drastically the lower the readings are taken – at 32 feet, the average wind speed is about 7.5 mph. At 262.5 feet, the highest average speeds would be in November (about 16.5) and the lowest would be in August (about 10.76), based on the study’s extrapolations.
“This detailed analysis provides clear evidence that the St. Lucie Wind project is expected to produce substantial amounts of emissions-free energy,” said Eric Silagy, vice president and chief development officer for FPL, in a statement.
WindLogics looked at five years of data between 2002 and 2006 from a meteorological tower at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, which is where FPL wants to place its six wind turbines. They would be the first of their kind in the state.
Julie Zahniser, head of the Save St. Lucie Alliance, and others opposed to the project said they believe there is not enough wind to make the turbines economically viable, that they would be built in an environmentally-sensitive location and that it’s going to devalue local properties.
“It looks like to me once again that FPL is perpetrating a fraud on the people of St. Lucie County,” she said after reading the study.
The company has posted information to its Web site at www.stluciewind.com that it says backs up its contentions that property values will not be harmed, that the turbines do not pose a danger to wildlife and will not pose a danger to the nuclear plant. However, information coming from the company has so far met with heavy skepticism from those against the proposal.
A wind resource map produced by the U.S. Department of Energy lists Florida as a “fair” site for wind, with estimated speeds of 14.3 to 15.7 mph at heights roughly as high as the FPL meteorological data, according to its Web site. While the fair designation is listed along the entire East coast, it is not broken down more specifically by region.
Zahniser said she has seen other studies that seem to contradict the FPL data and remains skeptical because the study came from one of its sister companies.
Although opponents have been vocal against the project, writing e-mails and letters to commissioners and turning out in large numbers to meetings, the company released results earlier this month that it said showed most residents support the plan. A phone survey commissioned by FPL found more than 80 percent of county residents would support the turbine project on FPL land.
The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted March 24 and 25 by McLaughlin & Associates and Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates. Company officials have remained optimistic that the project will be approved before the end of the year.
“The roughly $45 million total cost of the project works out to about 33 cents a year for the average FPL customer, or less than the price of a postage stamp,” Silagy said in the statement. “Given its strong environmental attributes, very reasonable cost and local economic benefits, we think the project deserves serious consideration in St. Lucie County.”
WHAT’S GOING ON
WITH THE WIND TURBINES?
•County staff are currently reviewing zoning and conditional-use permit requests, as well as a height variance, for six turbines to be built on Florida Power & Light Co. property at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant.
•The plans would have to go through the Planning and Zoning Commission and then County Commissioners before gaining approval.
•Three of five commissioners stated their opposition to turbines on state-owned land leased to the county, leading the company to withdraw those plans. So far, only Commissioner Chris Craft has publicly stated a position on the current proposal. He is against it.
By Derek Simmonsen
23 April 2008
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