Library filed under Zoning/Planning from Florida
Gov. Crist has committed the state to developing "green" energy that doesn't harm the environment. Now, he must direct state agencies, especially the Department of Environmental Protection, to stop approving little-tested technologies without setting standards. ...Last week, the state correctly backed off a hasty push to approve Florida Power & Light Co.'s request to build three, 40-story wind turbines on St. Lucie County public beaches. Even a planned April meeting is too soon to reconsider. FPL already plans six wind turbines on its own land. FPL has a booming wind business in other states, where turbines are inland, but little experience with coastal turbines.
The turbines would take up only 3 or 4 acres of dunes in the 409-acre park, FPL officials say, but to opponents like Coward that's too much. "It doesn't make any sense to me to promote green energy at the expense of our green spaces," said Coward. "I don't know that you could pick a worse site." Other commissioners are less certain about what to do, and want more information. "None of us are wind experts," said Commissioner Charles Grande, "although some of us are known for producing hot air."
Florida Power & Light, the state's largest utility, wants to build a line of nine wind turbines, each more than 400 feet tall, along an Atlantic Ocean beach. ...But a coalition of environmental groups - including Audubon of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and 1,000 Friends of Florida - have sent state officials a letter questioning whether the windmills will kill migrating birds and objecting to using conservation land for an industrial use. "While there are obvious benefits to considering the feasibility of wind in Florida," they wrote, "the benefits of the project do not warrant the significant wildlife impacts and bad conservation lands precedent that could result from this easement request."
"This is a test. This is only a test ..." The test I refer to involves FPL, its push for electricity-producing wind turbines on public land next to its nuclear plant, and the way government played along at first but now appears splintered. We have three players in this drama: the county, the state and, of course, FPL. Watching the trio dance, occasionally stepping on each other's toes, has been intriguing.
Our parks should remain quiet preserves; Kennedy Space Center's security shouldn't be compromised. Even our landfills should be off limits to FPL. Private industries have no right to generate profits on public property that only their shareholders will enjoy. Solar power is local by nature. It's time for municipalities to get behind start-up companies that can keep energy dollars circulating within their community and get FPL off public assistance.
Facing the possibility of two commissioners withdrawing support for its wind turbines, Florida Power & Light Co. pulled out of a planned state meeting set for today. The decision came after commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to send a letter to the state Acquisition and Restoration Council, which oversees the use of public land, telling them they shouldn't consider the turbine proposal until the county has weighed in. FPL is seeking to place six turbines on its own land on Hutchinson Island and another three on state owned land at Blind Creek Park that is leased by the county.
St. Lucie County commissioners' support for Florida Power & Light Co.'s push to build wind turbines on public land appeared to cool during a daylong debate Tuesday. But commissioners did not vote to endorse or oppose FPL's plan to build nine electricity-producing turbines on Hutchinson Island - six on company property and three on state land managed by the county. Instead, they decided to ask the state to delay a public hearing scheduled for Thursday in Tallahassee before a state committee that will hear FPL's request to lease the Blind Creek property needed for the three turbines. They weren't optimistic that the hearing would be put off before the Acquisition and Restoration Council, an advisory committee with representatives of several state agencies.
Florida Power & Light Co. will not go before a state agency this week to discuss its wind turbine plan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday. The Acquisition and Restoration Council, a state agency affiliated with DEP that oversees the use of public conservation lands, was set to meet Thursday and Friday in Tallahassee. The item is no longer on the agenda, said Sarah Williams, a DEP spokeswoman.
Several commissioners asked Florida Power & Light Co. Tuesday not to present information to the state about its wind turbine project until the county weighs in on it. The company wants to place six turbines on property its own at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant and three on state-owned land at Blind Creek Park that is leased by the county. The Acquisition and Restoration Council, a state agency affiliated with the Department of Environmental Protection that oversees the use of public conservation lands and makes recommendations on new lands for purchase, will discuss the project Thursday in Tallahassee and make a decision regarding it Friday. ...County Attorney Dan McIntyre said state officials told him there was "direction from above" to keep the turbines on the state agenda, but he thought the county should have its say before the state. McIntyre also said he didn't think having the turbines on a day agenda was the right way to go.
A decision on whether St. Lucie County commissioners want wind turbines on South Hutchinson Island could come Tuesday because state officials would like an answer later in the week. A state advisory committee known as the Acquisition and Restoration Council will hold a public hearing Thursday and vote Friday in Tallahassee on whether Florida Power & Light Co. should be allowed to use 6.3 acres in Blind Creek Park just north of the nuclear power plant. ...County Attorney Dan McIntyre has recommended the county oppose use of Blind Creek property because $3.6 million from a voter-approved bond issue helped buy the land. The ballot approved by 67 percent of the voters said the money should be used to protect environmentally significant land and wildlife habitat. ..."I'm disappointed we didn't get more advance notice so the public would have more opportunity to speak," Coward said. "It's unconscionable and now we have to add it to our agenda at the last minute."
The public has not received assurances, much less data, as to whether these turbines can withstand hurricanes. The review process itself started off on the wrong foot. All but one St. Lucie County commissioner tried to rubberstamp this project without public comment or confident data. Florida Power & Light told the community at the coal plant hearings there wasn't enough wind here to be productive, presumably to get their coal plant. FPL seems only to be looking at the price of land - not at science.
Florida Power & Light Co. is moving forward with plans to place wind turbines on state land at Blind Creek Park despite one county commissioner coming out against the site and the county attorney advising against it. County Attorney Dan McIntyre released a memo late Wednesday advising commissioners to not allow FPL to put turbines on the land, which is co-owned by the state Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (affiliated with the Department of Environmental Protection) and the South Florida Water Management District. The county helped the state buy the land, currently leases it and acts as the land manager. McIntyre opposed the plan because the county contributed $3.6 million to the state to buy the property, using money from bonds issues approved by voters to buy and protect "environmentally significant lands and wildlife habitat."
The St. Lucie County attorney is recommending against letting Florida Power & Light Co. build wind turbines on state land at Blind Creek Park because county conservation money was used toward buying the park. The recommendation is similar to one he made last year against allowing FPL to build turbines at Frederick Douglass and John Brooks parks, county-owned land that was purchased through bonds approved by voters for conservation purposes. FPL announced earlier this month that it was scrapping plans to put the machines at those parks, and would instead place six turbines on its own property at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant and another three on an undeveloped parcel of state land at Blind Creek Park. ...Sharon Bennett, an FPL spokeswoman, said the company is reviewing McIntyre's recommendation, though she said some state officials have "offered a different opinion" about the legal status of the property. "We anticipate they will also be weighing in on the issue," she said.
The news last week that Florida Power & Light has abandoned a quest to site wind turbines on St. Lucie County public beach land must have come as a relief to some. To the rest of us, it provided more questions than answers. Why, for instance, would FPL now subject itself to even more environmental scrutiny on state-owned land? Wouldn't that put back their timetable even more than using county-owned sites? And why is FPL only looking at a grand total of nine windmills here? Look at their other wind farm operations in Texas and California, where turbines number in the hundreds or thousands. ...I still don't get it. Our tiny project will never generate enough juice to make a dent in demand. Folks in St. Lucie aren't happy at using public land for windmills. Yes, we might find out that Florida wind is strong enough, but the scale is all wrong even if that's the case.
Jane Brooks, who has been active for 30 years in conservation efforts and worked with her husband for the state to buy the property, said she favors alternative energy sources but not on public beaches. She cited a management plan that says John Brooks Park was purchased to "maintain the land in as natural a state as possible" and to "preserve a section of coastline from further development, protect its native plants and animals and provide recreational opportunities for the people of St. Lucie County." Coward said that allowing wind turbines contradicts promises made to voters when they approved a bond issue to buy beach access for preservation and recreation.
County commissioners expressed support Tuesday for bringing wind turbines to Hutchinson Island, but were divided over whether to put them on public land. Florida Power & Light Co. has proposed up to nine turbines, which would be the first of their kind in the state, at several different locations on the island. Four would be on public land and the other five would be located at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, the first on the grounds of a nuclear plant site in the United States.
"We're working with the county's Growth Management Department on what the requirements are for getting permits," said Nick Blount, FPL's Treasure Coast spokesman. He said St. Lucie County was selected because of wind conditions here, but the company doesn't expect to generate a lot of electricity. "We don't expect the wind turbines to turn but about 20 percent of the time," he said. "That's why there are no wind mills in the southeast and the closest is in West Virginia. "Windmills will never be a sole source of power," he said.
The wind may be blowing hard enough in Florida to produce electricity after all. Florida Power & Light Co. said Thursday it intends to explore building a wind-power project near the coastline of St. Lucie County.