Wind turbines

Wind-catching turbines, like this one in Scotland, offer the chance to produce alternative energy but also pose a risk to birds. Audubon of Florida on Monday called for a three-year environmental study of a wind farm proposed in western Palm Beach County. (Some rights reserved by _gee_)

Audubon of Florida on Monday raised new concerns about a proposed wind farm that environmentalists contend poses a risk to migrating birds.

Missouri-based Wind Capital Group proposes building 80 towering wind turbines across 16,000 acres of sugar cane land near Belle Glade that was once part of the Everglades.

While offering an environmentally-friendly alternative energy source the tall towers and fast spinning blades also pose hazards for birds flying between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

Audubon on Monday called for at least three years of study to determine the potential environmental effects of the towers, before building any turbines.

According to Audubon, that should include radar studies to better understand the nighttime flight patters of birds as well as the potential effects on bats.

Audubon also wants to ensure that building the towers spread across a wide swath of farmland doesn’t tie up land that could be targeted for building the stormwater storage and treatment areas envisioned for Everglades restoration.

"Audubon strongly supports wind as an alternative to carbon-based fuels. However, we also must ensure that facilities are appropriately sited and do not cause unacceptable collateral impacts to birds and other wildlife," according to a letter Audubon of Florida sent Monday to the wind farm project backers.

The current environmental monitoring protocols do not "provide sufficient rigor to adequately predict future impacts of this proposal," according to Audubon.

"The resources of this region are too important and vulnerable to proceed with implementation without sufficient information," Audubon said.

Representatives for the Wind Capital Group proposal contend that environmental concerns are premature. They have called for a year-long environmental study to gauge the potential impacts.