Developers of a disputed energy-producing wind farm have dropped their plans to build 500-foot-tall turbines on the edge of the Everglades, a project representative confirmed Tuesday.
Environmental groups long opposed allowing the Sugarland Wind project to be built on western Palm Beach County farmland. Opponents argued that its towering, whirling blades posed too great a risk to endangered wood storks, Everglades snail kites and other migrating birds.
Despite the risk to birds, the Palm Beach County Commission last year allowed the Sugarland Wind proposal to move forward. And this month the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved a state environmental permit that the wind farm needed for construction.
But with federal regulators were still reviewing the Sugarland Wind proposal, representatives for the Wind Capital Group – the company proposing the wind farm – this week notified the state that they no longer planned to proceed.
“They are no longer pursuing the Sugarland Wind project,” Geoff West, the former environmental manager for the project, said Tuesday. “It’s sad to see.”
West said “market issues” and changes to state law favoring other forms of renewable energy stopped the project, not the bird concerns.
“The environmental issues you can work around,” West said.
Audubon of Florida and the Sierra Club were among the environmental groups that opposed the Sugarland Wind project, saying its proposed location was too risky for birds drawn to the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
“Alternative energy is critical for our future needs, but it must be in the right place. This large-scale project would have posed unreasonable risks to our treasured wildlife,” said Jane Graham, Audubon’s Everglades policy associate.
Sugarland Wind backers had maintained that they could deliver a “green” energy alternative to polluting fossil fuels, while also bringing construction jobs to struggling Glades communities.
Plans called for building at least 114 wind-catching, 500-foot-tall turbines that would have been spread across 13,000 acres of farmland in western Palm Beach County.
The turbines were expected to produce 200 megawatts of electricity to be sold to Florida energy providers; producing enough power for 60,000 South Florida homes, according to the proposal.
The Sugarland Wind proposal estimated that the turbines would kill three to four birds per year; totaling nearly 500 birds per year.
Environmental groups disputed that estimate, saying many more birds would have been at risk because of the project’s location within 3 miles of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge – the northern reaches of the Everglades.
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