Articles from Florida
Last week, Florida Power & Light Co. killed plans to build three wind turbines on a publicly owned St. Lucie County beach - just hours before county commissioners had scheduled a vote to oppose the project. Who says the state's biggest utility can't see the light? Now the utility can move forward with plans to build six 40-story windmills on its own oceanfront land near the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant. That should have been the approach all along. Instead, FPL tried to put another three windmills at Blind Creek Park, public land north of the nuclear plant that had been bought for preservation.
But running turbines on public conservation land, which Florida Power & Light was looking to do in St. Lucie County until county commissioners there got wind of it, isn't the way. Florida needs to cut its dependence on fossil fuels. But not -- not -- where a wind farm would irreparably damage publicly preserved land. Better options exist.
In the future, going to catch a few waves or taking the dog for a walk at Walton Rocks beach might involve driving past a wind turbine first. Although public lands are no longer being considered for Florida Power & Light Co.'s wind turbines proposal, three of the remaining six machines would be near public beach access at Walton Rocks. All six are proposed for FPL property near the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant. Although FPL officials said Tuesday they would keep public access to the site, it remains a concern for the Treasure Coast chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to conservation efforts to protect beaches and the ocean. Walton Rocks is a popular surfing spot and Andy Brady, the chapter's current chairman, said he's been riding waves there for about 30 years.
Opponents of Florida Power & Light Co.'s plan to put wind turbines on South Hutchinson Island still hope to have a large crowd at tonight's St. Lucie County Commission meeting even though a majority of commissioners have said they oppose building the turbines on public land. "We're trying to get our people out, but many have the impression we've already prevailed," said Julie Zahniser of the Save St. Lucie Alliance. ...Tonight's vote deals only with FPL's request for three wind turbines on the public conservation lands. FPL also wants to build six wind turbines on its own property at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.
Public lands are off the table. That was Florida Power & Light Co.'s message Tuesday morning as the company announced it would no longer pursue three wind turbines on state-owned land at Blind Creek Park. Instead, it will move ahead only with the six turbines proposed for land it owns around the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant on Hutchinson Island. The issue was set to go before the County Commission tonight, as commissioners were to consider writing a letter to the state denying an easement for the Blind Creek property. Because the county manages the land, its approval would have been necessary.
With the use of public lands off the table, the next battle in the war over bringing wind turbines to Hutchinson Island is beginning to take shape. Florida Power & Light Co. announced Tuesday morning it would no longer pursue turbines on state-owned land managed by the county at Blind Creek Park and would instead move ahead with just six turbines on land it owns around the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant. Local residents packed commission chambers for Tuesday's commission meeting where the turbines were originally set to come up for discussion. At the end of the night, commissioners agreed to work on a letter to the state outlining some general concerns they had about the Blind Creek location.
St. Lucie County shouldn't allow wind turbines anywhere on Hutchinson Island even though Florida Power & Light Co. cut its plan from nine to six turbines, several residents told county commissioners Tuesday night. "FPL's proposal for six windmills on its own property has all of the same environmental concerns as Blind Creek Park," said Julie Zahniser of the Save St. Lucie Alliance. She said there are threatened and endangered species in that area, and she doubts there's enough wind to make it feasible to generate enough electricity.
Since FPL proposed the wind farm last summer, fierce grass-roots opposition has arisen. "The more I learn, the more I question whether wind energy makes sense anywhere in Florida," said St. Lucie County Commissioner Doug Coward. "I'm sure other local governments will go through the same learning curve." ...Calling the wind proposal a "feel-good project" designed to oblige [FL Governor] Crist, Eric Draper, policy director of Audubon of Florida, said the awareness it has generated will doom wind energy anywhere in Florida. "The wind is on the coast, where you only have environmentally sensitive land, and people who want to live by it or use it for recreation," Draper said. "They are not going to want to see these facilities on their beaches."
Florida Power & Light, the nation's largest provider of wind energy, says placing nine of these behemoths across from its St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant -- three on beachfront state conservation land and six on property the company owns -- would power 3,000 homes. And the company thinks the sight of the giant turbines would stimulate demand for similar wind farms across the state by a citizenry eager to do its part to halt global warming. But the $61 million project, awarded a $2.5 million state grant, is generating far more heat than light, and prospects for its survival appear dim. Since FPL unveiled the proposal last summer, it has given rise to fierce grass-roots opposition -- and raised serious doubts about the feasibility of wind energy in the Sunshine State.
The St. Lucie County Commission is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to send a letter to the state's Acquisition and Restoration Council opposing Florida Power & Light Co.'s proposal to put wind turbines on publicly owned Blind Creek Park on Hutchinson Island. The park is owned by the state and the South Florida Water Management District but leased by the county. So far, at least three commissioners have publicly rejected the idea of using the conservation land for FPL's $60 million wind turbine project.
With a majority of St. Lucie County commissioners opposing Florida Power & Light Co.'s plans to put three giant wind turbines on conservation land at Blind Creek Park, that part of the nine-windmill project is dead. Three cheers. The project does not belong on land the county and state paid to preserve. ...St. Lucie's rejection would leave intact the principle that land bought for conservation is meant to be preserved. If FPL proceeds with the project on its own land, it should return a portion of the grant. If FPL drops the whole project, the whole grant should go back to the state.
So it's dead - or on life support, at best. The news that three county commissioners went public this week against the Florida Power & Light Co. wind turbine project on Hutchinson Island effectively seems to have killed the idea. All we're lacking now is the official obituary. Paula Lewis was the latest to make up her mind, following Doug Coward, but it was the project's chief proponent - Chris Craft - who turned a few heads Tuesday when he announced his opposition.
A majority of county commissioners now are against putting wind turbines at Blind Creek Park, which sends a "strong signal" to Florida Power & Light Co. they should reconsider the site, Commission Chairman Joe Smith said Friday. Commissioner Paula Lewis said Friday she is against FPL putting three wind machines on the state-owned land that is managed by the county. She said she was swayed by staff memos that said it would be impossible to replace the unique archaeological and ecological land lost at Blind Creek Park by the project. "Staff's input was there was no way to replace Blind Creek," she said. "It just isn't the place." ...Grande said he thinks it's still worth having a commission meeting devoted solely to the project and said he would definitely cast a vote one way or the other at that time. "If we turn it down, we should turn it down as quickly as possible," he said.
St. Lucie County Commissioner Paula Lewis said Thursday that she won't support wind turbines in Blind Creek Park and became the third of five commissioners to speak against the project. "Conservation lands are just not the place for wind turbines," Lewis said. "I'm still pondering whether wind turbines should be allowed other places in the county." Lewis' decision means a majority of commissioners oppose the project and it would lose if the board voted today. It's not clear what effect commission rejection of the project would have on state reviews of Florida Power & Light's proposal.
The county commissioner who was most supportive of bringing wind turbines to the county is now against it. Commissioner Chris Craft, who encouraged Florida Power & Light Co. to look at the county for its wind turbine proposal, announced during Tuesday's commission meeting that he no longer supports the project. He said his decision wasn't based on the debate over public lands but on whether it would have a net positive effect for the environment. "I think this has been and will continue to be the most important issue we have debated on this board," Craft said.
As Florida moves to implement those measures and consider others, businesses are concerned. ''We are injecting into the argument what the cost will be and the competitive effect of putting our state at an economic disadvantage to all other states that don't have strict emissions standards,'' said Jose Gonzalez, vice president of government affairs for Associated Industries of Florida, a lobbying group for businesses. ``It's certainly laudable. The governor is trying to do the right thing. But the way we get there is the question.''
FPL Group on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, seeking payment of cleanup costs associated with old munitions at its wind site in Texas. ...While it was in the process of purchasing the property, the Juno Beach-based utility learned it may be contaminated, so it hired TetraTech, an engineering and consulting firm, to evaluate it. While TetraTech was doing this, FPL (NYSE: FPL) leased the property. The suit says FPL could not wait for TetraTech to finish its study to lease Horse Hollow because it would not be complete before the federal deadline to develop clean-energy projects that would be entitled to receive production tax credits.
Will the windmill project reduce the energy costs for FPL customers in St. Lucie County? FPL admits the answer is no. But, the windmills along the beach would show that St. Lucie County is an environmentally-conscious, “green” county, helping to reduce oil dependence and saving the country from global warming. How impressive will the windmills be, though, if the project fails, which seems likely? Will the county look foolish, allowing the landscape to be marred by skyscraping windmills, which serve no purpose?
The statistics did not include ranking of states with available, sustainable wind that makes it possible to produce wind energy. Florida ranks 48th in available, sustainable wind, according to AWEA. This phenomenal statistic should be included in competent decision-making. In a horse race, would you a bet on the horse ranking 48 in a field of 50?
For Barney Bishop, president of the Tallahassee-based Associated Industries of Florida, it's too much, too soon. "We're willing to go in the same direction the governor wants to go, but he wants to go 100 miles per hour, and we want to go 50 miles per hour," Bishop said. "They talk about, 'we can do this, we can do that,' but they just assume people are going to be willing to pay the costs." Bishop wants a cost-benefit analysis for the governor's plan, and argued that Florida won't benefit from any push to curb greenhouse gas emissions if the states around it don't do something similar.