Articles from Florida
The bulk of the $9.5 million raised in FPL's Sunshine Energy Program between 2004 and 2007 was paid to a contractor in Texas for salaries, office expenses, business travel, research, marketing and a public relations consultant to administer the program, according to the audit findings. Auditors estimated that the contractor, Green Mountain, has spent about $2.2 million - 25.9 percent - to purchase and develop renewable energy. ... The Public Service Commission's probe of the program began in September with requests to the company for documents and explanations. FPL repeatedly responded by filing records under seal, saying the requested documents were "proprietary business information" and "contractual vendor data."
Florida Power & Light Co.'s proposal to put six wind turbines on company-owned property near the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant might affect several threatened species of wildlife, according to a recently released analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. According to the findings, FPL's proposal would have "a substantial adverse impact" on federally managed fisheries in the south Atlantic region and wetlands, the report states.
St. Lucie County planners may hire an outside consultant to review Florida Power & Light Co.'s plans for six wind turbines on South Hutchinson Island, a move that's likely to delay a county decision for weeks if not months. Assistant Growth Management Director Robin Meyer said this week he asked Florida Atlantic University officials if faculty members can review the project, but hasn't received a response. "I'm not an expert on wind velocities," Meyer said. "Some independent experts should take a look at it."
The commission's probe of the program began in September when it asked FPL for documents and explanations of how it has spent about $10 million collected from the program's 38,000 subscribers. Again and again, FPL filed requests to keep its records confidential, saying they contain "proprietary business information" and "contractual vendor data." But FPL records not under seal show that out-of-state renewable energy companies benefited more from the Sunshine Energy Program than did Florida companies. "I think it's disappointing for FPL customers who fully expected and assumed they were putting their hard-earned money into developing renewable energy in Florida," said Holly Binns, field director of the nonprofit environmental group Environment Florida. "This is one example of why voluntary green energy programs aren't sufficient to develop a renewable energy economy here."
St. Lucie County's desire for public beach access could give Florida Power & Light Co. a big bargaining chip when it seeks approval to build six wind turbines on land it owns on South Hutchinson Island. County Administrator Doug Anderson has written to FPL asking the company to renew an agreement that expired in 2006 so the county can continue to maintain a parking lot and restrooms at Walton Rocks Beach, FPL's 24 acres near the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant. "The lease agreement will ensure that St. Lucie County can continue to expend public funds to operate and maintain this beach, which has been enjoyed by our citizens for more than 20 years," Anderson wrote in a May 22 letter to FPL Vice President Eric Silagy. Anderson said he discussed the issue with FPL officials earlier this year, but has had no response.
As Florida Power & Light Co. gets closer to a public hearing on its wind turbine plan, skeptics of the project have plenty of questions left unanswered. What about the effect on birds? Or sea turtles? And why put turbines in St. Lucie County in the first place? Nick Blount, external affairs manager for FPL on the Treasure Coast, tried to answer some of those questions from about 20 members of the St. Lucie County Conservation Alliance on Wednesday night and promised to try to find answers to others raised by residents. "I respect people's opinion about our wind project, but what I do want to do is tell our side of the story," Blount said. "That's what we want."
As Florida Power & Light Co. gets closer to a public hearing on its wind turbine plan, skeptics of the project have plenty of questions left unanswered. What about the effect on birds? Or sea turtles? And why put turbines in St. Lucie County in the first place? Nick Blount, external affairs manager for FPL on the Treasure Coast, tried to answer some of those questions from about 20 members of the Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County on Wednesday night and promised to try to find answers to others raised by residents. ... Indian Riverkeeper Kevin Stinnette said he has several issues he still thinks should be addressed, preferably by conducting a full environmental impact statement. Blount said the company would do what is required, but he didn't commit to a full environmental impact study. In addition to sensitive wetlands being in the area, Stinnette said he has concerns about the potential effects on sea turtles, fish and birds.
Opponents of Florida Power & Light Co.'s plan to put wind turbines on Hutchinson Island have exceeded their goal in raising enough money for a legal defense fund. ...Julie Zahniser, who leads the alliance, said in an e-mail message Friday they exceeded the goal by "a wide margin" and will continue to collect funds if the County Commission does approve the plan and they need to challenge it in court. Opponents believe they have grounds to challenge the project based on land use objections and possible threats to birds and fish in the area.
Florida Power & Light Co.'s controversial plan to bring six wind turbines to the island got a boost on Monday from the National Resources Defense Council. Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy for the New York-based group, wrote a letter to commissioners touting the potential for wind energy in the state and asking that FPL receive a fair hearing. "We support the development of properly sited wind power as a component of our clean energy policy in Florida," he wrote.
The Save St. Lucie Alliance started a Legal Defense Fund this week in the hopes of hiring a land-use attorney who can represent residents opposed to putting six wind machines on FPL property near the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant. The group had raised $3,600 by Friday and has a goal of raising $10,000, which is the amount they estimate might be needed through a final County Commission hearing on the project. "We're leaving no stone unturned," said Julie Zahniser, an Indian River Drive resident who leads the alliance. "We want to make sure we preserve our legal rights in the event the Board of County Commissioners approve it. Then we'll be positioned to take it one step further."
Florida would develop a plan to cap emissions of the greenhouse gases thought to cause climate change, and would allow businesses to buy and sell credits in order to meet those limits, under a measure approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives that supporters called a historic shift in state energy policy. But the far-reaching energy legislation also would make it easier for utilities to run transmission lines across state lands, and would permit power companies to charge consumers in advance for the costs of building or relocating some infrastructure.
Our impressive upper-level winds (average year-round 13.8 mph, no less) will make those jumbo-jet-sized turbine blades churn merrily. That's far faster than the 9 mph the super-efficient Siemens generators need to start turning over - and turning us on. I know the estimated 3,600 lucky Hutchinson Island recipients of this windy bounty are besides themselves with excitement over the news. I'm not so sure how the other hundreds of thousands of FPL customers feel about footing most of the $45 million bill.
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. ...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.
The city of Fort Pierce has issued an edict (April 7 City Commission meeting) requiring all residents of condominiums on the beach to pull down shades, turn off lamps and batten down the lights to aid sea turtles in their search for nesting sites and ensuring hatchlings make their destination in the right direction - east. The lights confuse the turtles and cause the hatchlings to move toward land lights rather than toward the ocean. ...Now that we have this bit of information that should surprise no one, we move to giant wind turbines on the beach. What do they do to the sea turtles?
Do you really want to take the chance of ruining the lagoon and destroying our sport-fishing resource for something that we do not have enough wind for? The evidence points to the fact that wind turbines might be a disaster to our environment and proper independent studies have not been conducted by either the county or FPL. County commissioners have a choice to represent either their constituents or FPL. I urge them to stop the procrastination, and unless proper, independent, ecological studies are initiated, please save the county a lot of time and money and ban the turbines immediately.
As Floridians struggle to pay the soaring cost of gasoline and home insurance, energy legislation that could cause a significant increase in Florida's electricity rates is breezing through the Legislature with little scrutiny. House and Senate energy bills backed by Gov. Charlie Crist are packed with incentives - grants, rebates and tax credits - to promote the use and development of renewable energy. Both bills, however, call for state regulators to require electric utilities to produce a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy sources. The standard touted by Crist and others is 20 percent over a number of years yet to be determined, an ambitious threshold that would lead to higher electric bills because renewable power is generally more costly than power made from coal and natural gas. ...Tampa Electric, which provides electricity to nearly 670,000 customers and uses renewable energy sources to produce 2.5 percent of its power, said although it supports the increased use of renewable power, a mandate to produce a certain percentage would lead to increases in monthly electric bills. "The most affordable fuels will be taken off the table for future use and replaced with more expensive technologies," said company spokeswoman Laura Duda. "There will be rate pressure."
Perhaps FPL is right. Perhaps the majority of St. Lucians could care less if the company wants to play at windmills on its own land. But I have to wonder if the survey questions weren't just a little, shall we say, skewed? It's well-known in market research circles that how you ask the questions can be as important as the questions themselves. FPL's survey, for instance, made no distinction as to where phone respondents lived the island or inland? I suspect few of the "yes" votes came from Hutchinson Island. FPL also didn't seem to want to hear from people who rarely vote in general elections. And they didn't bother to find out exactly what 20 percent of the "yes" voters meant by being only "somewhat" supportive.
Two weeks after scaling back a plan to put wind turbines on Hutchinson Island, Florida Power & Light Co. officials released a survey Wednesday attesting to what they say is broad support across St. Lucie County for the more modest proposal. But wind turbine opponents questioned the survey results, with some claiming that the timing of their release was a sign that public opinion might be turning against the power company's $45 million plan to build the first wind farm in the southeastern United States. ..."It's unlikely FPL would have taken this step had public opinion been running their way," Linowes wrote in an e-mail to opponents of the FPL plan. For example, Linowes said, a proposal to put wind turbines on public land in Maryland met strong opposition. After public hearings, the company pitching the turbines released a public opinion poll.
St. Pete Audubon has urged members to oppose Senate Bill 1506, because portions of that proposed legislation make it easier for power companies to run lines through public property. "The concerns were that it made it too easy for the utility companies to take land that belongs to all the people of Florida," says Kandz. ... "This is wild Florida, so we need to protect conservation lands at all costs," said Rinker. So while the power puzzle continues to take shape in Tallahassee, environmental activists say they'll continue to keep their guard powered up.
Although Blind Creek Park is no longer under consideration for wind turbines, County Commissioners wanted to make sure their objections to the site were still sent on to state officials. Commission Chair Joe Smith sent a letter Monday to the state Acquisition and Restoration Council, which was set next month to consider a request for an easement at Blind Creek Park to allow for wind turbines. The park is state-owned land leased and managed by the county. ... The turbine plans are still being reviewed by the county and County Commissioners would have to sign off on zoning and conditional use permits as well as a height variance to allow the project to move forward.