WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – When you think of Florida, you probably think of sun, not wind.
But if things keep marching along, Palm Beach County is going to become the wind capital of the Sunshine State.
Last month, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved an environmental permit for a company to build 114 wind turbines – each of them far taller than the Statue of Liberty – on 13,000 acres of farmland east of Belle Glade.
We’re talking about a metallic garden of 475-foot tall pinwheels, each planted a half-mile from each other in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
The wind energy converted by these modern windmills is estimated to generate enough electricity to power 60,000 homes. But environmental groups have opposed the project, saying that the huge spinning blades so close to Florida’s wetlands will create a kill zone for the multitude of birds and bats who live there.
The company, Sugarland Wind, estimated that the wind turbines will only kill a total of about 500 birds a year.
“How are they going to know?” asked Drew Martin, the conservation chair for the local branch of the Sierra Club. “If a bird gets hit with something spinning at 195 miles an hour, there’s not going to be enough of the bird left to count.”
Palm Beach County has already given its blessing to the $300 million plan. But final approval is still contingent on the company submitting a viable bird and bat protection plan to the federal government. I think I can help.
Being that the project is within three miles of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the first step will be to inform all the different species of birds who live and migrate there to avoid flying into the nearby shredded tweet zone.
So let this serve as notice to all the fulvous whistling ducks, green winged teals, northern shovelers, gadwalls, red-breasted mergansers, American wigeons, white-cheeked pintails, great blue herons, green-back herons, black-crowned night herons, snowy egrets, least bitterns, roseate spoonbills, scarlet ibises, pied-billed grebes, common loons, greater scaups, tundra swans, ospreys, American kestrels, buffleheads, snail kites, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, northern harriers, crested caracaras, northern bobwhites, sandhill cranes, purple gallinules, American coots, Virginia rails, limpkins, black-bellied plovers, semipalmated sandpipers, marbled godwits, willets, white-rumpled sandpipers, short-billed dowitchers, black-necked stilts, black skimmers, Bonaparte’s gulls, Forster’s terns, white-winged doves, yellow-billed cuckoos, short-eared owls, great horned owls, burrowing owls, whip-poor-wills, common nighthawks, chimney swifts, ruby-throated hummingbirds, belted kingfishers, red-bellied woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern flickers, eastern wood pewees, fork-tailed flycatchers, Eastern phoebes, couch’s kingbirds, purple martins, cliff swallows, bank swallows, barn swallows, house wrens, sedge wrens, marsh wrens, gray catbirds, brown thrashers, double-crested cormorants, anhingas, magnificent frigatebirds, lesser yellowlegs, and bald eagles.
And to all the other dozens of species that fly in and out of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge every year:
Don’t fly west. If you do, it’s Cuisinart city. You’ve been warned.
The easiest way to provide electricity to 60,000 homes in the Sunshine State would be for those homes to have solar panels that would be neither an eyesore, nor a threat to your safety as a bird.
But we’re going for wind in a state that isn’t even particularly windy.
And for you, that really blows.
Frank Cerabino writes for the Palm Beach Post.
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