I live in Arthur, Ontario, and am located in the middle of the study area of a proposed wind farm by NextEra Energy/FPL (Florida Power and Light Co.) As a resident of the area, I am concerned with the project and its negative effects on the health of humans and livestock (there are several dairy, hog and poultry operations within the study area), coming from the audible and inaudible sounds emitted, as well as it being placed in a rural setting and disturbing the wildlife that lives in the local bush. So in frustration I began researching the company of NextEra Energy as it is known in Canada, but in the United States it was known as FPL up until the Spring of 2010. I was alarmed at what I found about this company, that prides itself on being one of the greenest energy companies.
On November 30, 2010, NextEra held a public consultation meeting in Drayton, Ontario regarding the proposed wind farm in Arthur. Many of those that came to the meeting, heard over and over throughout the night, that NextEra owns and operates 9,000 turbines. 9,000 turbines equates into green credits, a lot of them. Green credits, or Green-e Certifications can help offset a company’s carbon footprint, so to the public eye the company appears to be doing minimal damage to the environment. This is the case with NextEra/FPL.
On the NextEra/FPL website you can find a map of the United States that shows the company’s portfolio of energy facilities. More than two thirds of them are wind or solar, the other third are a combination of nuclear, natural gas, oil, and other. The picture looks good. However, another map on the home website of the company shows the generation facilities in the state of Florida alone. The majority of electricity generated by FPL in Florida comes from oil/gas burning plants, as well as nulcear and coal plants.
Therefore, the 9.000 turbines are there to offset NextEra’s massive carbon footprint. One such example is a coal plant in neighbouring state Georgia, the Scherer Power Plant in Juliette, Georgia. FPL owns 76% of unit 4 (there are 4 units in this plant). This coal plant is the largest point-source of CO2 in the United States. It emits annually, 27 million tons of carbon dioxide! Scherer can burn through an average of three train loads of coal per day, which is shipped from Wyoming, 1800 miles away.
In the Sun Sentinel paper of Florida, it states that FPL has three of the top 12 dirtiest plants in Florida, one of them being the Riviera Beach Plant, an oil/gas burning plant. It has been in operation for nearly 50 years. Plants that are built before the late 1970’s are exempt or partially exempt from tougher pollution standards. Consequently, older plants can legally emit more nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides. Many of these older generation power plants make up a substantial part of FPL’s portfolio. The Wyman Station in Maine, owned by FPL as well, burns oil, it has also been in operation for nearly 50 years. It was stated on the Natural Resources Council of Maine website that the Wyman Station power plant was the largest source of pollution in the state of Maine, releasing thousands of tons of air pollutants annually. A year after this article was written the public and the Board of Environmental Protection demanded that FPL clean up nitrogen oxide air pollution at the Wyman Station. The plan did not allow FPL to purchase “pollution credits” as a way of avoiding the clean up. So FPL had to install pollution control equipment at Wyman. A report, from High Beam Research, following the installation of these cleaners, found that the Wyman Station power plant is still responsible for 43% of sulfur dioxide that is released into the air in the state of Maine.
One more notorious gas/oil power plant belonging to FPL is the Martin Power Plant in Florida. The original power plant was permitted in 1972 and had a nameplate capacity of 400 MW. Today the plant stands at 3750 MW and sits on 11, 300 acres. It is the largest fossil fuel plant in the United States. The Martin Power Plant is located next to Barley Barber Swamp, an important wetland ecologically and archeologically. The wetland has all been but declared dead. Analysis of this wetland has shown that it is being dewatered because of the massive draws of water that the Martin Power Plant requires for its cooling system. This water used in the cooling process is sent back into the wetland full of expelled pollutants and effluent. FPL’s Martin plant is not only responsible for the disastrous water usage, greenhouse emissions, and effluent intrusion, FPL has also betrayed their committment from 1973 (when the plant opened) that states, “The swamp containing several of Florida’s endangered species, will not only be saved, but also preserved and enhanced.” The swamp shows imminent collapse.
NextEra Energy/FPL owns or has holdings in five nuclear plants in the United States. The St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, owned by FPL, earned itself the distinction of being one of the worst run facilities in the nation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) just this past summer. St. Lucie continues to have problems with critical safety systems. The Turkey Point Nuclear facility, which is also owned by FPL, has been fined $70 000 for improperly maintaining highly radioactive spent fuel.
In a nuclear facility radioacitve waste is a by product. This radioactive waste can include contaminated gases, liquids, and solids. The radioactive waste management system is to collect, process and recycle or dispose of radioactive waste, or radwaste. In some cases, radwaste is intentionally discharged into the environment, while in other circumstances is released accidentally. Intentional and accidental discharges is regulated by the NRC. The plant is to submit reports that disclose the amount and composition of the radwaste discharged. In a pressure water reactor or a boiling water reactor liquid radwaste is collected through drains that capture plant spills or water from equipment that releases liquid radwaste periodically through the process, as well as water rejected from other systems due to chemistry problems. This liquid radwaste is sent and stored in many tanks. Here the water, or radwaste is cooled to allow the radioactive gases to be released and then collected. When the radwaste reaches below a specified limit of radioactive material, it can be released into the environment. However, there are times when the quantity of the liquid radwaste to be processed is too much for the radwaste management system to handle. In this case, the radioactive waste would simply be discharged. This has happened with both Florida facilities owned by FPL.They have had to shut down due threats from hurricanes making landfall in close proximity of these nuclear power plants. There is much controversy over how this radioactive waste can effect humans. Many believe, that the radioactive waste coming from these plants is a direct cause of the higher frequency in which cancer is being diagnosed in the areas downwind/downstream of these nuclear plants.
FPL/NextEra Energy stands behind everyone of their facilities, therefore we can conclude NextEra stands behind every fossil fuel burning plant, every molecule of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides or sulfur dioxide that is released into the atmoshere. Every sanctuary for wildlife that is destroyed because of radioactive waste being discharged into it, or simply depleting an ecosystem of it’s lifeline, is supported by NextEra Energy/FPL. Does this company sound like it is concerned with the planet that we live on, the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, or the community we live in? No. As usual with mammoth companies such as these, they are only concerned with the bottom line and securing more green credits to offset their green house gas emissions courtesy of another wind farm. Is FPL the only one like this? No. Look at Suncor. They operate wind turbines, but they also own the oil tar sands in Alberta. Look at Invenergy. They operate wind turbines too. But, they also own and operate many natural gas fired power plants too.
Are we making a greener Ontario by putting up these Industrial Wind Turbines and in turn, supporting American companies who are guilty of contributing to the environmental predicament that we are in? The bottom line is, No.
Elissa Krul, Arthur