Palm Beach County commissioners on Monday gave final approval to a series of development rules that could allow a wind farm to rise on thousands of acres of sugar land near Belle Glade.
The commission voted 6-0 in favor of changes to the county’s land development regulations that would allow wind turbines to rise throughout the county. Commissioner Burt Aaronson was absent during the vote.
The changes aren’t related to a specific location but are meant to help clear the way for turbines proposed within the county limits, by creating rules and regulations for such projects.
Wind Capital Group, a St. Louis company, has proposed building Florida’s first wind farm in the Glades. The company hopes to convert the breezes blowing off Lake Okeechobee into energy that could power homes and businesses across South Florida.
Environmentalists, however, have expressed concerns that the turbines could harm birds and bats. Migratory birds flying through the region could be struck by the moving blades, environmentalists fear.
Sylvia Pelizza, refuge manager of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, told commissioners that three years of study are needed to “adequately assess” the effects turbines would have on the birds.
Dennis Wedgworth, president of Wedgworth Farm, said a wind farm in the Glades would provide an economic boost for area farmers, who are struggling after years of hurricanes, droughts and freezes.
“The wind farms would, of course, temper these risks,” Wedgworth said. They “would bring much needed economic activity to the part of the county that probably most needs it.”
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