By Dan Moffett
Those rusted and ragged shade sails lining the parking lot at Boynton Beach Oceanfront Park are soon to give way to aluminum solar canopies as part of Florida Power & Light’s growing campaign to promote clean energy across the state.
“The sails have been a nightmare problem for us,” Jeff Livergood, Boynton’s director of public works and engineering, told the Ocean Ridge Town Commission on Oct. 2. “The canopies will help educate people about solar power and also provide more shade.”
The sails have cost Boynton Beach about $25,000 a year to maintain because of corrosion to poles and wind damage to fabric. The two new canopies will pay for themselves, each generating 200 kilowatts of power for FPL and $4,000 annually for Boynton Beach that the company will pay to rent the space. FPL handles all maintenance during the 20-year lease agreement.
The Ocean Ridge commission unanimously approved the canopy plan — approval Boynton Beach and FPL needed to receive the required state permits to begin construction.
FPL has already installed a solar tree on the lower level of the park, near the Turtle Cafe, that can charge residents’ cellphones and provide park and area information on screens. The trees cost between $22,000 and $32,000.
FPL engineers say the canopy structures are built to withstand the 170-mph winds of a Category 5 hurricane. Livergood said the canopies can be adapted to charge electric cars, if demand warrants. The project’s canopies slant 18 feet to 14 feet tall, and cost nearly $1 million each. In all, about 22 parking spaces will be covered.
FPL is spreading them throughout South Florida as part of its Solar Now program that asks customers to pay $9 more each month to help promote public use of solar power. More than 450 Boynton residents are enrolled in the program.
Solar canopies are currently in use at the West Palm Beach Zoo, and at parks in Naples and Palm City, as well as the Young at Art Museum in Davie. Pompano Beach just approved several canopy projects for public buildings.
In other business:
• In its continuing battle against noise in neighborhoods, the commission on Sept. 26 unanimously approved an ordinance restricting the hours of construction and lawn work.
The ordinance prohibits construction and lawn maintenance work from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. on weekdays and allows them only from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Construction and lawn work are not allowed on Sundays and certain federal holidays. The ordinance provides exemptions for emergency repairs — for air conditioning units, water heaters or essential services such as plumbing and electrical — and for hurricane preparation.
The Planning & Zoning Commission recommended the changes, and Chairman Jerry Goray said the panel had no shortage of opinions on what hours should be restricted. Mayor Geoff Pugh said the ordinance is a compromise of opinions that the commissioners can always adjust later if residents find the time limits unacceptable.