Alternative energy sources, including solar and wind, are gaining well-earned support. However, like hydroelectric dams, there are some places where more damage can be done to the environment by these energy generators than is acceptable. Some hydroelectric dams have turbines that have destroyed salmon runs by grinding up millions of fish. Wind turbines can be destructive to birds.
Wind Capital Group, a reputable company with leading technology in wind-generated power, has chosen a location in Palm Beach County for approximately 100 turbines. These turbines are as tall as the Statue of Liberty, with whirling blades running 24 hours when there is sufficient wind. Unfortunately, the location is in a terrible place for migrating waterfowl, directly between major waterfowl marshes in Lake Okeechobee, the Arthur Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and the South Florida Water Management District Storm Water Treatment Areas. Each of these venues have many thousands of ducks and other migrating waterfowl resting and feeding from September to February.
Plans are for the turbines to be placed in a double row starting in the north, just south of the Dupuis Reserve and stretching south toward the Browns Farm area west of the refuge and north of Storm Treatment Area 2. Ducks especially migrate and move from feeding to resting areas during the night. Flying through a double-row gantlet of 100-foot long whirling blades, flocks of ducks could be decimated.
United Waterfowlers-Fl Inc., a nonprofit advocacy group supporting conservation and restoration of wetlands and public access to public lands for waterfowling in Florida, opposes the placement of turbines in this flyway for migrating waterfowl and other birds without scientific proof there will be only minor levels of fatal strikes.
The company has some data on bird strikes. There are sparse data on night migrations, particularly ducks, and the numbers rely on “calls,” which are not applicable to ducks. The company has good data on raptors and some other birds. Night-time data may be obtained by using radar technology. The current information available regarding bird movements at night during the migration period in the area selected for the turbines is not reliable. UW-F requests a full scientific study during darkness using radar techniques to determine the numbers of birds that are exposed and may be impacted.
Soon, several agencies and the Palm Beach County Commission will be petitioned for permits for construction of the turbines by Wind Capital Group. UW-F asks that the plight of the waterfowl be considered and the project rejected unless data prove the birds will be safe.
Newton E. Cook is executive director of United Waterfowlers-Fl Inc. and a resident of Tequesta.
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