“Primarily, if you look to the regulatory requirement to provide reliable service at reasonable cost, the key area is reliable cost to all of FPL customers. Putting in normal transmission structures in those areas today, those are on the order of several million dollar per mile. Underground is five to eight times more expensive. And if you look at what’s foreseen, underground is not a lower cost of maintenance and they are not necessarily more reliable. There is different impact on hurricanes. They can get flooded out. Takes more time to repair those,” Scroggs said.
“If there’s a choice to go underground and it’s made by a local municipality for aesthetic reasons, then that’s a localized benefit and the Public Service Commission doesn’t see why a consumer in Belle Glade or Sarasota should be paying for a localized benefit in a certain geographic area,” he added.
The cities also expressed concerns about the effects of electromagnetic fields created by the lines. However, studies have been inconclusive about possible health risks.
Jerry Paul, a nuclear engineer and contributing expert with the Sarasota-based Energy Information Center, an independent organization that serves as a clearinghouse for public discussion on the energy field, believes the health concern are unfounded.
“I don’t say that lightly,” Paul said from his home in Venice, Fla. “I’ve been looking at this since the 1980s. Been approached by many lawyers who have been trying to make that case that there’s some health or safety impasse. Looking at the science of it, I’ve never seen, or had, a conversation with a credible expert who believes that it is a significant health impact. Logically, it doesn’t make sense if you understand the radiation field and how physics impacts on the human body. It’s a stretch.”
FPL spokesman Peter Robbins declined to comment on the pending litigation but responded last week: “The transmission project we have proposed will become more and more necessary to maintain the high standards of reliability that FPL customers have come to expect as Coral Gables continues to grow. Importantly, the proposed route follows a long established, existing right-of-way through the city and was chosen after receiving input from our customers, agencies, and local governments in order to minimize the impact on the community. The proposed poles are similar to those that have been installed in numerous communities around the state.”
FPL’s plans date to 2008, when the utility applied for the corridors as part of its proposal to add two more nuclear reactors to Turkey Point. The plans have gone through detailed state and federal reviews. The company called the new lines critical to improving reliability and serving South Florida’s growing population. The lines, including a new substation, and expansion plan, could run up to an estimated $18 billion.
“This project is projected to save our customers $75 billion in fossil fuel costs over the life of the project and the initial life is 40 years — that’s an enormous number,” Robbins said. “Nuclear energy is free of emissions, no greenhouse gasses are produced. We encourage people to learn more about it.”
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