St. Lucie commissioner calls for redirecting wind turbine money toward solar panels
By Eric Pfahler
ST. LUCIE COUNTY — County Commissioner Doug Coward thinks rooftop solar panels are a better idea than the six 400-foot wind turbines Florida Power & Light Co. plans for South Hutchinson Island.
“Why don’t we take that $5 million (in subsidies for the turbines) away from a project that is ill-fated and actually shift it into trying to do widespread rooftop solar?” Coward asked during a Tuesday night commission meeting. “Maybe do it on a demonstration in St. Lucie.”
He asked State Rep. Adam Fetterman (D-Port St. Lucie) to work with state officials to take $5 million in subsidies for the turbines and use it for solar panels on rooftops of individual homes.
The planned turbine project has long been controversial among county residents and environmentalists for its location requiring state-owned land leased to the county, potential noise, the height and look of the turbines and its potential affects on birds and sea turtles.
Coward pointed to a study done for the Florida Public Service Commission concluding that, based on current available wind mapping, the Florida onshore wind resource is limited and that the amount of wind needed to make turbines in the state economically viable has not been found.
He said the shift in money could put people to work while limiting the need for fossil fuels.
The county requested FPL pay for an independent study, but an FPL report submitted June 5 said the company has “already conducted significant and extensive reviews of the project site, including a wide variety of environmental reviews” and was not interested in duplicating studies, particularly because St. Lucie County was not willing to share in the cost.
The wind will supply electricity to more than 3,600 residents from a $45 million investment, according to the FPL report.
The county is still reviewing the document and was not ready Tuesday night to respond to it, said Robin Meyer, the county’s growth management assistant director.
The wind turbine project lost its biggest ally on the commission when in March of 2008, Commissioner Chris Craft said he did not believe the project created enough energy.