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Wind Capital Group to build plant in Jupiter

Wind Capital Group hopes to obtain building permits in a few months for a wind plant in western Palm Beach County, the first in the Southeast U.S.

Wind Capital Group
Wind Capital Group's Lost Creek wind farm in Missouri. The group is planning a similar project for Palm Beach County.?
"In the state of Florida, this is going to be some of the best wind you're going to find," says program director Robin Saiz in Jupiter. Federal Energy Department resource maps show mainland Florida's wind energy potential is mediocre with the exception of east of Lake Okeechobee.

Meanwhile, however, concerns over the turbine's impact on wildlife raise the question of whether any Florida location will be viable for wind generation. The company has commissioned a 50-week study of birds and bats to plan a layout that would minimize the impact on wildlife. The industry reports that on average turbines kill three birds per year per megawatt, far fewer than deaths caused by cats, transmission lines or crashes into buildings and cars, Saiz says.

But environmentalists say the study isn't long enough to capture fluctuating bird migratory patterns. The area is critical habitat for native avian species and migrating birds, which stay over land as long as possible. Bird populations from Latin America to Canada could be affected, they say. "The impact is going to be very negative," says Drew Martin, conservation chair for the local Sierra Club chapter.

Similar concerns led environmentalists to oppose FPL's plan for wind generators near its nuclear plant on Hutchinson Island in St. Lucie County. FPL put those plans on hold and now is evaluating sites in western St. Lucie.

Wind supporters, Martin says, may have to look offshore.

"Of course, we support renewable energy. The important thing is they be sited appropriately," says Julie Wraithmell, wildlife policy director for Audubon of Florida, which wants a three-year study. "Florida has some very unique concerns, and as a result, it's important we do our due diligence before siting these things. Once they're up, the damage is done."

Harvesting the Wind

Wind Capital Group of St. Louis is targeting Palm Beach County for a wind farm.

  • The farm: 80 to 100 turbines — each 40 to 50 stories high
  • Where: 13,000 acres of leased farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area
  • Power: Combined generation of 150 megawatts, enough to power 35,000 to 40,000 homes
  • Jobs: 250 to 300 at peak construction; 12 to 15 to operate the turbines
  • Cost: $300 million