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FPL’s proposed wind towers unopposed at St. Lucie County Commission hearing

FORT PIERCE – Florida Power & Light Co.’s request to raise meteorological towers to monitor and measure wind speeds in western St. Lucie County breezed through an initial public hearing before the St. Lucie County Commission without public comment or objection Tuesday night.

FPL is seeking an amendment to the county’s land development code that would allow it to build temporary towers not to exceed 200 feet tall to collect wind data, ultimately to determine whether wind turbines would be viable sources of renewable energy in the county’s AG-5 zoning district.

FPL representatives said one or possibly two towers will be erected for a year to 18 months to determine wind velocity and consistency in the western half of the county.

FPL has not determined the specific locations of the structures. The towers will be set back 300 feet from all property lines, painted neutrally to conform with the local environment and have a footprint not to exceed 500 square feet, enclosed in a 6-foot fence, said Jeff Johnson, county senior planner.

The request is not related to any other applications pending before the commission, specifically a controversial proposal to build wind turbines on Hutchinson Island near the company’s nuclear power plant, company officials said.

“If out west is where the county and public prefer, we’re willing to go out and take a look at it,” said FPL attorney Peter Cocotos.

Cocotos acknowledged a previous independent study of conditions in western St. Lucie County that indicated sustained wind speed might be marginal to support existing turbine technology, but he said FPL was motivated sufficiently about the prospect of renewable wind energy in Florida to move forward.

“It’s possibly borderline, but we need to get the data and analyze it,” Cocotos said. “We have some hope for it, and we’d like to go out and get the data.”

The amendment places a three-year cap on the lifespan of the project, though FPL representatives said sufficient information could probably be gathered adequately in half that time.

Commissioner Chris Dzadovsy applauded the company’s efforts to explore alternative sources of renewable energy and also encouraged FPL to make the information gathered from the sensors available to the public either via a real-time Internet platform or an abstract of the data. Company representatives were non-committal about that.

The second and final public hearing on FPL’s request is scheduled for the commission’s Aug. 2 meeting.