Huge Pushback on Clearcutting 36 Acres for Solar

By Mike Lednovich

The City Commission has told Florida Public Utilities it is in favor of pursuing solar energy options, but took no position on the 36 acres of maritime forest at the airport currently being proposed as the site for a solar farm.

“All five people (commissioners) have said they would be in favor of solar in some capacity,” said Mayor Bradley Bean. “For the record, we note that Commissioner Ross is in favor of solar but not in favor of that 36-acre location and from the other four we have a consensus in favor of solar in general.”

FPU in partnership with the property leaseholder Amelia River Golf Club originally sought an amendment to the property lease in order to be able to use 36 of 130 untouched acres for a solar farm and airport hangars. The project would necessitate clear-cutting the site.

Public opposition to the lease amendment was so negative that the amendment vote was removed last week from the city commission agenda and replaced with a discussion of the project.

“When FPU approached me about the idea a couple of years ago I thought it might be worth considering. That’s the reason we’re here,” said Tom Miller, a partner in the golf course company that holds the property lease. “I love this island. I have several businesses here. I plan on growing old and retiring here and having my kids visit here.”

Mike Castle of FPU said the plan is to install a five-megawatt solar array on the property.

“The use of this space … we’ve seen this at airports around the state. The transmission lines would not be overhead, they would be underground,” he said. “There are some benefits to a solar field on a barrier island.”

He spoke of the importance of renewable energy in that (electrical) grid.

“We want resilience, reliability, we want better power quality for our customers and this accomplishes all of those,” Castle said. “The renewable energy goes right back here on the grid for the island. It provides energy security. It helps us mitigate that problem.”

FPU said they had looked at other island locations but got pushback of solar panels “not in my backyard.”

Cameron Moss was among about a dozen speakers who voiced opposition to the solar farm location. Moss, who was representing the new non-profit Citizens Against Runaway Development Amelia, labeled the proposal as a project in search of justification.

“What’s the objective here … to raise revenue to fill revenue gaps? For resiliency and fill emergency power gaps?” he said. “This is a pretty draconian measure to cut down thousands of old-growth trees untouched by man, it seems out of character with the island … I would ask the city commission to hit pause on this proposal.”

When commission discussion began, Chip Ross read a list of objections to solar on the heavily wooded parcel.

“A solar farm is not an allowable use on land zoned industrial airport land. It would decrease the tree canopy by 1% and take it to negative in violation of the (city) comprehensive plan,” Ross said. “I’m not for the clear-cutting of 36 acres of maritime forest to allow for a solar farm.”

Commissioners Darron Ayscue and James Antun took a more let’s leave the door open approach.

“I would like to see the exploration of how this would work out,” Ayscue said. “If Commissioner Ross is correct in all his assumptions, well then this is dead before it even gets off the ground. I’d be interested to see if that’s the case and it won’t get far. If it isn’t the case, then at least we’ll have some answers and the ability to be able to provide some feedback to our constituents on how to move forward.”

Antun said, “I’m in support of generally looking for opportunities for solar renewable energy. I think tonight we’ve heard we’ve got our work cut out for us on public approval. If we can get creative and continue to draw community input to refine the idea I would support it if it makes sense.”

The commission set no deadlines for updates on the Amelia River/FPU proposal.

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Susan Taylor
Susan Taylor(@sutayl)
11 months ago

In my opinion, there are better sites for solar panels, such as on roofs of buildings and/or homes. Let’s leave our trees where they are! We need trees as habitat for wldlife and to help protect our island from upcoming storms. I feel strongly about this, so I vote NO to the proposed solar farm and any other sacrifice of acres of maritime forest!

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago
Reply to  Susan Taylor

If we can reach the same energy production I agree

Sue K Simpson
Sue K Simpson (@guest_69870)
11 months ago
Reply to  Susan Taylor

Who repairs or replaces the panels? Is it expensive and swiftly done? Are repair parts easy to find and get?

Kelly
Kelly(@dune5000)
11 months ago

If you want to destroy something to build a solar array, then destroy your golf course and build it there! That’s a much better idea than bulldozing a pristine riverfront forest.

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago
Reply to  Kelly

At least we could stop talking about how the golf course loses money

Sue K Simpson
Sue K Simpson (@guest_69871)
11 months ago
Reply to  Darryl

Who repairs or replaces the panels? Is it expensive and swiftly done? Are repair parts easy to find and get?

Tm Walker
Tm Walker (@guest_69816)
11 months ago

It would seem that there would be more suitable locations off the Island in the county if there is a need to build a solar facility. For the city consider using this high value forested location is a bad idea. The city has many more pressing issues to deal with without getting in the power generation business. Have you checked your water bill lately. Maybe they should focus getting those costs under control first.

Sue K Simpson
Sue K Simpson (@guest_69872)
11 months ago
Reply to  Tm Walker

Who repairs or replaces the panels? Is it expensive and swiftly done? Are repair parts easy to find and get?

Dale Newman
Dale Newman (@guest_69819)
11 months ago

A great place to put solar panels would be at high heat open areas, like already existing parking lots. You could build a raised structure that supports solar and also provides shade for cars to park. Walmart Super centers come to mind. Leave the trees alone please.

P M
P M (@guest_69840)
11 months ago
Reply to  Dale Newman

Yes, the Mayo Clinic has done this very effectively. Shade for parking and a large solar array.

Peggy Bulger
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
11 months ago
Reply to  Dale Newman

I think that solar panels over open air parking lots is brilliant! It is a win-win, without clear cutting trees and providing MUCH needed shade for cars that have to sit in 90 degree heat.

Sue K Simpson
Sue K Simpson (@guest_69874)
11 months ago
Reply to  Peggy Bulger

Who repairs or replaces the panels? Is it expensive and swiftly done? Are repair parts easy to find and get?

Sue K Simpson
Sue K Simpson (@guest_69873)
11 months ago
Reply to  Dale Newman

Who repairs or replaces the panels? Is it expensive and swiftly done? Are repair parts easy to find and get?

Mark Tomes
Trusted Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
11 months ago

We should be decentralizing energy production by installing solar panels on building rooftops, on shaded parking lots, etc.

Bob Virtue
Bob Virtue (@guest_69821)
11 months ago

A 5 megawatt solar array can power about 1,000 homes. Doesn’t seem worth it to me when you consider new technologies will become available over the next few decades. Save the trees.

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago
Reply to  Bob Virtue

I am curious to learn about the new technologies you reference- will you share some examples?

Bob Virtue
Bob Virtue (@guest_69861)
11 months ago
Reply to  Darryl

I feel there will be some type of nuclear fusion.

Barton Wiles
Barton Wiles (@guest_69822)
11 months ago

There is over cutting of trees on and around the airport and city golf course ..use that! What’s wrong with you people? Leave what little trees we have left alone. Bt the way, the Tringali proposal is ridiculous. Historical and should be left alone as well. You commissioners campaign one way and then chase the money, not what the public wants. This place was beautiful in the 80’s when I arrived. What in the hell happened?

Bill Fold
Bill Fold(@bill-fold)
11 months ago
Reply to  Barton Wiles

Here’s what happened, a bunch of idiots moved in.

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago
Reply to  Bill Fold

Input from the shallow end of the gene pool

Paula Mutzel
Paula Mutzel(@paula-m)
11 months ago

“Only God can make a tree”…find another spot.

Dale
Dale(@edbutera)
11 months ago

Another bad idea for Amelia Island. Is there a website somewhere that reads: Attention developers! Come to Amelia Island and propose a project that no one here wants.

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago

In our rush to condemn anyone who proposes to do, well anything we may be throwing out the baby with the bath water. The parcel in question is about 25 % (my estimate) of a currently inaccessible and unused tract. The solar farm would not be viewable to us as residents, we could only see it from the air. The solar farm would provide about 10 % of the islands power needs with free renewable energy. The island has only one source of power coming over the bridge, no backup whatsoever, very unusual for a barrier island if Florida. I find a solar farm much more attractive an option than another housing tract condos airport expansion etc. let’s slow down and think this through.

Robert Prager
Robert Prager (@guest_69849)
11 months ago
Reply to  Darryl

The tract is not unused. It is a functioning maritime forest that provides many benefits to the island. Not all land needs to be developed to be considered as used. By the way, Eight Flags Combined Heat and Power of Chesapeake Utilities Corporation sells electricity to FPU and currently provides 50% of Amelia Island’s electric power demand. They are located at Rayonier on the Island. They have also successfully blended hydrogen with natural gas to support and expand sustainability.

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago
Reply to  Robert Prager

Is it accurate to say that 50% of the electricity used on the island is produced on the island and would not be impacted if the power link coming over Shave bridge was severed? I have been told the exact opposite and am not sure what to believe.

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery(@douglasm)
11 months ago
Reply to  Darryl

I would like to know that answer also. I remember a bad accident just over the bridge (west) several years ago (5?) took out power to the entire island for about 6 hours.

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery(@douglasm)
11 months ago
Reply to  Darryl

Just found this in Amelia Island Living from Feb22:

Eight Flags Energy, LLC, provides electricity and steam generation services through a combined heat and power (CHP) plant on Amelia Island, Florida, serving approximately 50% of Amelia Island’s demand for electricity. 

That is incredible….

Bill Fold
Bill Fold(@bill-fold)
11 months ago
Reply to  Darryl

Dude, nothing is free. If you learn nothing else today please learn that.

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago
Reply to  Bill Fold

Your trite comment reflects badly on you

Bob Virtue
Bob Virtue (@guest_69891)
11 months ago
Reply to  Darryl

It would provide about 6% of the residential needs and none of the commercial needs.

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago
Reply to  Bob Virtue

The proposal said 10% – where does the 6% figure come from?

Bob Virtue
Bob Virtue (@guest_69911)
11 months ago
Reply to  Darryl

A megawatt solar array generates enough power to power about 200 homes. So, 5 megawatts can provide power to about 1,000 homes. That would be about 6% of the homes on the island and it doesn’t consider commercial power needs. Seems the proposal is inflated if it suggests 10%.

Debra Adams
Debra Adams(@dwa529)
11 months ago

I may by misinformed, but they do not own the land they want to destroy, the
y hold a lease. I compare it to renting an apartment. I hold a lease on that apartment. I cannot tear down walls and renovate the kitchen. It’s not my property. Am I missing the point here?

Taina Christner
Taina Christner(@taina)
11 months ago

Yes there are much more suitable sites on the island, but that would cost more, so they will instead push to have the 36 acres cleared or trees and wildlife to make way for their solar farm . And the group of four voting block commissioners will vote to approve it because they don’t care what you think.

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago

What are the much more suitable sites you reference?

John Findlay
John Findlay(@jfindlay)
11 months ago

Do not clear forest for solar. Build solar on fields that are already cleared!

Sue K Simpson
Sue K Simpson (@guest_69869)
11 months ago

Please rethink this. Research Italy’s experience with this. Epic Failure. All that’s left are acres upon acres of non-functioning solar fields that replaced farming. And they are ugly ugly ugly. Too expensive to repair, maintain or remove.

Kevin B
Kevin B(@kevin-b)
11 months ago

Has anyone asked what economic benefit Mr. Miller would gain by amending the property lease to partner with FPU? My guess is Mr. Miller’s interest is not just about “reducing our carbon Footprint and tying into green energy.” As a businessman, I am sure there is also a favorable return on investment for this project.

Darryl
Darryl(@darryl)
11 months ago
Reply to  Kevin B

I would hope so! Why else would he find it?

Lucy Peistrup
Lucy Peistrup(@lucyp74)
11 months ago

The current lifespan of a solar panel is 20 years. ALL PARTS are TRASHED at the end of that lifecycle. Not ONE PIECE can be reused or recycled. The ONLY panel manufacturers are owned by CHINA. The lithium batteries that are required for solar to be effective during a storm are far worse to the environment than fossil fuel ever thought of being. To DESTROY what few trees are left on the island for such a TEMPORARY thing, is shortsighted. I concur with many comments on here—if it must be done, place them on parking lots or building roofs or the golf course that continues to lose money and is OWNED by the city! But NOT on LEASED property that has valuable habitat!!