Good jobs. Clean energy. Mangled birds.
These are the possible results of a vast wind farm proposed for the agricultural lands of western Palm Beach County.
Wind Capital Group, a St. Louis energy company, wants to build about 80 turbines across 16,000 acres of the Everglades Agricultural Area, which is used to grow vegetables and sugar cane. Each turbine would be 475 to 515 feet high, taller than any building in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Spinning at a maximum 195 mph, each turbine could power 400 homes without using a drop of oil. But this monument to clean energy would stand at the crossroads of some of the most important bird habitat in the United States.
And bird “collisions with turbine blades are often fatal, and usually resulting in the animal being effectively eliminated from the breeding population,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated in a July 1 letter to the company.
The agency said there was potential harm to the Everglade snail kite, bald eagle, wood stork, northern crested caracara and the many species that inhabit the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Also at risk were bats, which play a role in controlling insects that would otherwise infest the farm fields.
The $300 million project, which still requires approval from several federal, state and local agencies, would stand within a swath of the Atlantic flyway that connects Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades as well as in the core foraging zone of five rookeries of endangered wood storks.
The wildlife agency, which based its assessment partly on data supplied by the company’s environmental consultant, said the company must do a much more rigorous analysis of the potential wildlife threats.
The company said the project will generate about 250 construction-related jobs, 15 to 20 permanent jobs, a steady stream of tax revenue and direct payments to landowners.
Spokesman Tony Wyche said the company has engaged in an extremely careful study of the potential threats to wildlife.
“We’ve had birders on site studying bird presence and behavior for five days a week over 52 weeks,” he wrote. “We are approximately halfway through an exhaustive study process … and will continue our efforts to ensure that we take all these factors into account throughout the development process.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding