SIBLEY—An Osceola County wind farm continues to generate issues for nearby residents.
Landowners still are waiting for resolutions related to excessive noise and shadow flicker caused by wind turbines a Juno Beach, FL-based energy company runs in the county.
The Osceola County Board of Supervisors discussed the ongoing issue with NextEra Energy Resources LLC during its meeting Tuesday, May26. The company is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc. which operates the wind farm located north of Highway 9 near Harris.
The energy company had been granted a conditional use permit in March 2019 for a turbine blade replacement project. However, NextEra had to satisfy county requirements regarding the noise levels of the turbines and shadow flicker the machines created for nearby landowners.
The one-year period to reach mitigation agreements with affected landowners expired at the end of March.
Jeff Bryce, project manager for NextEra Energy Resources, told the board via conference call the company has come to an agreement with one landowner regarding excessive noise and plans to reduce the speed of two additional turbines near two other houses.
NextEra also intends to install low-noise trailing edge blades on a turbine near one of those houses as well as implement a noise-reduction operation mode for the machine to ensure its noise levels fall within the 50-decibel limit set by the county.
NextEra also has reached agreements with two landowners regarding shadow flicker and plans to curtail operations at turbines surrounding five other houses so they do not exceed the limit of 30 hours of flicker per house, per year.
The company plans to install a program on the turbines that will direct the machines when to shut down to meet the 30-hour limit.
Bryce said the company also remains open to providing other forms of mitigation to landowners besides shutting down turbines.
County resident Scott Rueter, who attended the meeting, told the board a representative from NextEra called him earlier in May asking if he had problems with shadow flicker. When he told the person yes, the representative offered to have the company plant trees around his house or install shades on his house windows.
He did not want shades and explained trees would not do any good since the turbines are much taller.
“I get shadow flicker a lot more than 30 hours a year, but I have two turbines to the southeast, one to the south and three to the southwest,” Rueter said. “It is way more than 30 hours. One person approached me on this once. That was it. I called them back and he said, ‘Uh, somebody will be calling you.’ I’ve heard no one. Same way with the noise.”
Michelle Abadie, another county resident who attended the meeting and has been communicating with NextEra about shadow flicker, said the company should keep in mind landowners in the county may not respond to the company right away about mitigation offers since they are busy working in the fields.
Board chairman Ed Jones pointed out the company had a lot of time to follow up on reaching out to landowners.
“That’s what I’m saying,” Abadie said. “It would have been better if this had started before everybody got ready to go back to work.”
Jones reminded Bryce this was not the first time landowners had complained about the company not reaching out to them. Jones encouraged landowners to document the date and time each time they communicate with NextEra.
David Levy, a lawyer representing NextEra who attended at the meeting, offered to exchange contact information with the landowners for follow-ups with them and agreed with Bryce the company needs to fully comply with the conditional use permit’s requirements.
Levy also offered to follow up with Rueter to check if his house was on the company’s list of locations where turbine speed curtailment was scheduled.
Board member Jayson Vande Hoef said the company should notify landowners when the mitigation has been completed and explain to them the steps that were taken.
Jones agreed and added the company should work out any discrepancies that arise if landowners’ decibel readings don’t match those of the company after mitigation has taken place.
“I completely agree with you,” Bryce said. “If somebody is saying, ‘Look, here’s a decibel meter outside my house and it says 60. Why does it say 60, and you’re telling me your model shows 48, 49?’ then we need to continue those discussions and figure that out.”
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