Florida Wind Farm Approved, With Bird Protections

While Sugarland Wind sounds more like a stop along Candy Land’s winding road than an actual wind energy project, it’s a little bittersweet for some tastes. However, Wind Capital Group’s Sugarland project just got unanimous approval from the Palm Beach County Board of Commissioners, and can now move ahead with construction later this year.

So what makes this 200 megawatt wind farm sweet? It will be Florida’s first wind farm, according to North American Windpower, producing clean energy on private farmland among the sugar-cane fields. The bitter tinge comes from fact that it also sits within the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), spawning concern over the bird and bat wildlife that also call the area home.

Sugarland Wind Farm

image via Sugarland Wind

Situated seven miles east of Belle Glade in Palm Beach County, the $300 million project will sit entirely within the EAA on farmland that will be leased directly from area farmers. The total project will spread over 10,000 acres, but will only take a 3 acre bite out of the land for actual turbines, access roads, and other equipment. Wind Capital Group asserts that the project was designed to be the least invasive as possible by utilizing existing farm roads and allowing farming right up to the base of each turbine.

The turbines will be spaced about one-half mile from each other, with their blade tips soaring up to 475 feet in the air. Producing between 1.5 to 2.3 megawatts each, the turbines are expected to supply enough clean energy for nearly 30,000 U.S. homes.

The wind farm did not get its approval without a bit of controversy, for both economic and environmental concerns. As Florida is not known for its high winds, some people are skeptical as to whether the farm can generate energy at a low cost. Unlike solar power, wind energy has been slow to develop in Florida.

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies

    • Congratulations, Florida. I hope that all involved in the Wind Industry watch this installation’s performance over time. If it can work in an State not known for high winds, then perhaps other areas which previously were discounted may get a second look. 

      Also, great performance might be cause to take a look at some of those US Government Wind maps floating around. 
      As it stands, on most maps it appears Florida’s consistent Wind is near zero. I hope, in the case of Sugarland Wind, that those maps are proven out of date.  

    • Stevenmanwaring

      you think it isn’t windy in florida???  try riding your bike around for a day.

      • Pete

        Hey Steve — No doubt the wind can occasionally be a slog for cyclists! But for the consistent levels of wind that utility-scale wind development seeks, Florida just doesn’t compare to the leading states. Check out this map and compare Florida to Texas and Iowa, the two leading wind states:

    • Greg

      Notice :http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_resource_maps.asp?stateab=fl that Eastern Floridahas a lot of areas that meet the NREL defined annual average wind speeds criteria of around 6.5 meters per second at greater than 80-m heights which are generally considered to be the required speeds suitable for wind development. Utility-scale, land-based wind turbines are typically installed between 80 and 100 m high and the project you discovered has turbines at 475 feet. Rather surprising that this 200Megawatt project impacts only 3 acres! according to the developer. For comparison a 400-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Gadsden County and a 200-MW solar farm in Hardee County are already planned and now National Solar Power has entered into an agreement with Liberty County to build a solar farm—this one up to 100 MW in size. It will be constructed on five 200-acre plots of Liberty County property adjacent to the company’s Gadsden County project.

      • A wind farm in total can cover a huge expanse, but the actually footprint on the land of the turbines and other infrastructure is quite small — about 1/4 acre per turbine, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This is a point many wind critics have trouble comprehending, or chose to ignore, as they constantly talk about how the vast tracts of lands that will be rendered unusable by wind farms if we scale up. In fact, Iowa (among other places) proves that wind farms and agriculture go quite well together, producing clean energy and providing farmers supplementary income.