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FPL moves massive equipment through streets in wee hours

Photo: A convoy carries the first of six loads (of huge generators and turbines headed for FP&L’s Okeechobee Clean Energy Center) through the city in the wee hours of the morning.

What may be one of the largest vehicles ever seen in Vero Beach wound its way through the city in the wee hours of the morning last week.

Escorted by the Florida Highway Patrol, bucket trucks and vehicles tasked with detecting any overhead obstacles like traffic lights that would need to be moved, the convoy carried the first of six loads of huge generators and turbines headed for Florida Power & Light’s Okeechobee Clean Energy Center.

Since the combined weight of the equipment and the specialized trailer was estimated at 700 tons, the convoy was trailed by a team of Florida Department of Transportation bridge inspectors who had to ensure the safety of each bridge after the transport vehicle passed over.

The components will become part of a combined-cycle natural gas generating plant FPL is building south of Yeehaw Junction adjacent the Fort Drum Marsh Conservation Area. The Florida Public Service Commission approved the plant in 2016 and it’s expected to go online in mid-2019.

“Once complete, the FPL Okeechobee Clean Energy Center will produce about 1,600 MW using natural gas, which is enough to power about 300,000 homes, said FPL Spokesperson Sarah Gatewood.

Gatewood said that over the next couple of months, the remaining turbines and generators will be delivered by barge to the port in Fort Pierce and then transported through Vero Beach to the site.

Components for the heat recovery steam generator, meanwhile, will be barged to the old Vero Electric power plant site in September. Barges will use the channel and docks behind Vero’s power plant, under the Alma Lee Loy Bridge.

“The movement of parts is expected to be at night to minimize traffic impacts over the next several weeks,” Gatewood said.

City Manager Jim O’Connor was aware the transport crews would be heading through Vero, but he said he played no part in relegating their travel to nighttime. “I do not believe we have control over state highways,” O’Connor said.

The Okeechobee Clean Energy Center is part of FPL’s plan, along with its two solar power facilities In the works in western Indian River County and other green energy efforts, to meet or exceed federal environmental goalposts laid out for more efficient, cleaner production of electricity.