By Dennis Glade
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
WEST PALM BEACH —
Palm Beach County zoning commissioners voted Thursday to allow construction on Florida's first wind turbine farm near Belle Glade.
Commissioners voted 6-0 for wind turbines at the 12,900-acre site. The plan now will go before the county commission.
Wind Capital Group, a St. Louis company, seeks to convert the wind blowing off Lake Okeechobee into energy that could power homes and businesses.
Throughout the process to get the wind farm approved, environmentalists have objected to what they believe will be irrevocable damage to the natural habitat of birds and other animals.
Robin Saiz, director of project development for the Wind Capital Group, said the firm is collecting data to determine how to protect birds.
Roy Schneider of the Audubon Society of the Everglades cautioned the zoning board to be patient before making any commitments to ensure the Glades' natural beauty.
"I do wish you would be cautious about making plans that are so long-term and expensive," Schneider said. "We are all supportive of clean, renewable energy sources, we all want more jobs.
"The question is what kind of jobs and is doing this for the long-term for the good of our society? Going toward this as a more cautious and conservative measure might be a good idea."
George Gentile of Gentile Glas, Holloway, O'Mahoney and Associates, speaking on behalf of the Wind Capital Group, said the construction of the wind turbines will boost the economy with 200 to 300 construction jobs and 15 to 20 permanent jobs once the turbines are running.
Gentile denied that the farm would produce a disturbing amount of noise.
"A normal conversation is anywhere between 50 and 60 decibels; 100 meters from the wind turbine we are at the 50-decibel level," Gentile said.
"The sound and noise coming from the new technology is well within range of normal activities."
Zoning Commissioner Sherry Hyman said she hopes that the wind farm will spark more energy sources like it, not only around Florida but around the country.
"I'm fully supportive of this project.
"We need more wind engines throughout our country and less fossil fuels, for sure," Hyman said.
Wind farm near Belle Glade
- $350 million to produce 200 megawatts to power 55,000 to 65,000 homes.
- 114 to 124 wind turbines.
- Turbine would be roughly 30 stories tall.