Wildlife and Wind Energy

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Sage grouse sitting in grassland. Photo from LuRay Parker, NREL 17429

Birds and bats are occasionally killed in collisions with wind turbines. Like any form of development, wind projects can also negatively impact wildlife by altering habitat. However, although the wind industry receives a lot of attention for avian impacts, research shows that nuclear and fossil-fueled plants have a greater impact. The Avian and Wildlife Costs of Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power report, for example, quantifies those impacts. The study estimates that wind farms are responsible for roughly 0.27 avian fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while nuclear power plants involve 0.6 fatalities per GWh and fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 9.4 fatalities per GWh. Within the uncertainties of the data used, the estimate means that wind farm-related avian fatalities equated to approximately 46,000 birds in the United States in 2009, but nuclear power plants killed about 460,000 and fossil-fueled power plants 24 million. [1]

Over the past two decades, wind development's impact on birds has been greatly reduced by improvements in turbine design and particularly through improved project and turbine siting. Organizations such as the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative and the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative are working to reduce the risks of wind development to wildlife by participating in collaborative research and outreach efforts with industry. The wind industry, in partnership with environmental organizations, is also taking action to reduce wildlife impacts through the efforts of the American Wind Wildlife Institute.

Resources

American Wind Energy Association. (2013). Research on Offshore Wind and Wildlife. Accessed April 19, 2015.
This page summarizes the results of scientific studies and provides a list of references.

American Wind Wildlife Institute. Accessed April 15, 2016.
The American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) facilitates responsible development of wind energy while protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat. AWWI was created and is sustained by a unique collaboration of environmentalists, conservationists, state wildlife agencies, and wind industry leaders. Its purpose is to help lay the scientific groundwork and best practices for wind farm siting and operations through targeted initiatives: wind-wildlife research, landscape assessment, mitigation, and education. The AWWI offers the Landscape Assessment Tool, a general screening tool using data available to the public to provide current information about the environmental characteristics and important landscape-level wildlife values of a geographic area.

American Wind Wildlife Institute. (2014). Wind Turbine Interactions with Wildlife and Their Habitats: a Summary of Research Results and Priority Questions. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This page summarizes publicly available information about the adverse impacts of land-based wind power on wildlife in North America and the status of our knowledge regarding how to avoid or minimize these impacts.

Arizona Game & Fish Department. (Revised November 2009). Guidelines for Reducing Impacts to Wildlife from Wind Energy Development in Arizona. Accessed April 15, 2016.
These guidelines provide information to help reduce impacts to bats and birds from wind energy development in Arizona. They include recommendations on: 1) preliminary screening of proposed wind energy projects, 2) pre‐construction study design and methods, 3) assessing direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts to bats and birds in accordance with state and federal laws, 4) developing avoidance and minimization measures, 5) establishing appropriate mitigation, and 6) post-construction operations monitoring, analysis, and reporting methods.

Colorado Division of Wildlife. (2006). Wind Power and Wildlife in Colorado: An Informational Resource Guide. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This guide contains a collection of information intended to serve as a starting point for gaining a more complete understanding of issues related to wind power development and wildlife conservation in Colorado.

Colorado Renewable & Conservation Collaborative, New Mexico Wind & Wildlife Collaborative. Southern Plains Wind & Wildlife Planner.
The planner allows you to select the state where the wind energy development will be located to display a list of priority resource concerns.

Conservation Biology Institute. Decision Support for Conservation in the Tehachapis and Southern Sierra.
The Conservation Biology Institute, through a grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, is working with BLM, CDFG, and USFWS to develop a science-based regional planning framework for the high wind resource region of the eastern Tehachapi Mountains and southeastern Sierra. The project is intended to facilitate decision-making on a regional basis, per the recent federal guidance policies, through spatially-explicit and transparent decision-support tools for wind energy development and conservation.

Erickson, W.P.; Wolfe, M.M.; Bay, K.J.; Johnson, D. H.; Gehring, J.L. (2014). A Comprehensive Analysis of Small-Passerine Fatalities from Collision with Turbines at Wind Energy Facilities. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This comprehensive peer-reviewed study provides the most detailed analysis to date of the impact of bird fatalities at wind energy facilities in North America and is the first to measure the relative impact of those fatalities on populations of small passerines, including songbirds.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Wind Energy and Wildlife Resource Management in Iowa: Avoiding Potential Conflicts. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This document provides siting guidelines and recommendations for Iowa.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism. (Updated 2012). Wind Power Position. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This page outlines the Department's position on and recommendations for wind project siting in the state.

Kansas Renewable Energy Working Group. (January 2003). Siting Guidelines for Windpower Projects in Kansas. Accessed April 15, 2016.
These guidelines were drafted for wind project stakeholders to use as they consider potential project sites in Kansas.

Kiesecker, J.M.; Evans, J.S.; Fargione, J.; Doherty, K.; Foresman, K.R.; et al. (2011). Win-Win for Wind and Wildlife: A Vision to Facilitate Sustainable Development. Accessed April 15, 2016.
Although other studies have estimated the total amount of potential wind-energy production available in the United States and globally, this is the first to examine if renewable energy goals can be met on disturbed lands that could reduce conflict with wildlife.

Loss, S.R.; Will, T.; Marra, P.P. (December 2013). Accessed April 15, 2016.
Estimates of Bird Collision Mortality at Wind Facilities in the Contiguous United States.

Maine Audubon Society. (2008). Maine Audubon Wind Power Siting Guidelines. Accessed April 15, 2016.
These guidelines identify types of sites that have a high potential for being turned down in the permitting process because of adverse wildlife impacts.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (2011). Guidance for Commercial Wind Energy Projects. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This document explains the organization's role in the wind project review process and issues to be considered during project development.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (June 2010). Environment and Siting. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This fact sheet describes three collaborative research efforts regarding wildlife and wind energy siting being conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in support of the U.S. Department of Energy.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Wind-Wildlife Impacts Literature Database. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This searchable bibliographic database features documents on the effects of wind energy development on wildlife.

National Wildlife Federation. Shifting Skies: Migratory Birds in a Warming World. Urgent Action Needed to Protect Birds and their Habitat. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This report describes how a warming climate could lead to a decline in some bird populations and even some extinctions if action is not taken to curb carbon pollution and adopt climate-smart conservation strategies.

National Wind Coordinating Collaborative. (June 2011). Comprehensive Guide to Studying Wind Energy/Wildlife Interactions. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This resource document of the Wildlife Workgroup is intended as a guide to persons involved in designing, conducting, or requiring wind energy/wildlife interaction studies.

National Wind Coordinating Collaborative. (October 2007). Critical Literature Review: Impact of Wind Energy and Related Human Activities on Grassland and Shrub-Steppe Birds. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This report examines the actual and potential impacts of wind energy facilities on grassland and shrub-steppe avian species.

National Wind Coordinating Collaborative. (May 2013). Effects of Wind Power Development on the Population Biology of Greater Prairie Chickens in Kansas. Accessed April 15, 2016.
As wind energy projects are proposed in Kansas and other states where Greater Prairie Chickens and other grassland birds are now of conservation concern, conservationists, wildlife agencies, and wind energy companies are collaborating to study possible impacts from such development. Results from a comprehensive 7-year research project in Kansas suggest that wind power does not strongly affect Greater Prairie Chickens.

National Wind Coordinating Collaborative. Wind Turbine Interactions with Birds, Bats, and their Habitats: A Summary of Research Results and Priority Questions. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This fact sheet summarizes what is known about bird and bat interactions with land-based wind power in North America, including habitat impacts and remaining key questions and knowledge gaps.

National Wind Coordinating Collaborative. Accessed April 15, 2016.
The Sage Grouse Research Collaborative and the Grassland Community Collaborative include representatives from state and federal agencies, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and the wind industry.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. (2011). Wind Energy and Nebraska’s Wildlife: An index of the sensitivity of wildlife habitats to wind energy development, based on selected at-risk species. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This map was designed to aid in planning for wind energy development by identifying areas of Nebraska that are considered relatively more sensitive or less sensitive to such development, with respect to selected species of concern. This map is not designed to evaluate wind farm siting at specific locations.

Nebraska Wind and Wildlife Working Group. (November 2013). Guidelines for Wind Energy and Wildlife Resource Management in Nebraska. Accessed April 15, 2016.
These guidelines are non-regulatory statewide recommendations designed to help developers assess and minimize potential environmental impacts that could result from development of wind energy facilities.

New Mexico Department of Game & Fish. (2012). Recommendations to Minimize Adverse Impacts of Wind Energy Development on Wildlife. Accessed April 15, 2016.
The department posts development guidelines to minimize adverse impacts on wildlife in the state.

Normandeau Environmental Consultants. Wind-Wildlife Collision Risk Tool.
Normandeau Associates developed a spatial, species-specific (avian and bat) collision risk model for wind resource areas in the central United States. Wildlife managers, government agencies, and wind energy developers can use this tool to conduct large-scale, pre-construction studies and assist with federal and state regulatory compliance.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. Wildlife and Wind Energy. Accessed April 15, 2016.
The Division of Wildlife issued these guidelines for responsible siting of wind energy facilities in Ohio.

Playa Lakes Joint Venture. Southern Plains Wind and Wildlife Planner. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This regional collaborative includes entities such as the Colorado Renewables and Conservation Collaborative and the New Mexico Wind and Wildlife Collaborative. The planner tool is designed to help wind energy developers reduce potential impacts to wildlife and ecosystems during the planning and development of projects in these states.

Sandercock, B. (May 2013). Environmental Impacts of Wind Power Development on the Population Biology of Greater Prairie-Chickens. Accessed April 15, 2016.
A 7-year study by Kansas State University researchers shows that developing wind farms in Kansas has had little effect on the state’s prairie chicken population.

South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks; South Dakota Bat Working Group. Siting Guidelines for Wind Power Projects in South Dakota. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This document outlines guidelines for wind power developers and other stakeholders considering potential wind power sites in South Dakota.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nebraska Wind Energy & Wildlife Project. Accessed April 15, 2016.
This website provides information about wind energy development and wildlife in Nebraska and tools that can be used to minimize potential impacts of wind energy development on wildlife.

U.S. Department of Energy, Ocean Energy Systems. Tethys Database. Accessed April 15, 2016.
Tethys is a database and knowledge management system that provides access to information and research pertaining to the potential environmental effects of marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) and offshore wind development.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (2012). Final Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines. Accessed April 15, 2016.
The Fish & Wildlife Service released guidelines designed to help wind energy project developers avoid and minimize impacts of land-based wind projects on wildlife and their habitats.

U.S. Geological Survey. Energy and Wildlife. Accessed April 15, 2016.
The USGS brings together many fields of research to help managers, policymakers, industry, and others make decisions that allow for energy growth while responsibly lessening conflicts among renewable energy, ecosystems and wildlife.

U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2005). Wind Power Impacts on Wildlife and Government Responsibilities for Regulating Development and Protecting Wildlife. Accessed April 15, 2016.
As part of this report, GAO assessed (1) what available studies and experts have reported about the impacts of wind power facilities on wildlife in the United States and what can be done to mitigate or prevent such impacts, (2) the roles and responsibilities of government agencies in regulating wind power facilities, and (3) the roles and responsibilities of government agencies in protecting wildlife. GAO reviewed a sample of six states with wind power development for this report.

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. (2009). Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Wind Power Guidelines. Accessed April 15, 2016.
These guidelines were developed through a representative stakeholder group comprised of environmental representatives, county planners, wind energy developers, state and federal natural resource managers and biologists, and the public with consideration for fish and wildlife habitat protection, conservation and mitigation related to the development of wind energy facilities. These guidelines are intended to provide permitting agencies and wind project developers with an overview of the considerations made by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the review of wind energy project proposals.

Western Governors' Association. (2013). Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool: Mapping Fish and Wildlife across the West. Accessed April 15, 2016.
The goal of this free, online wildlife habitat mapping project is to encourage economic development across the West while protecting the region's environmental treasures. The Western Governors' Association hopes that the mapping tool will enable industry to "reduce time, costs, conflicts, and surprises" and will help conservation groups and state and federal agencies to ensure that wildlife values are better incorporated into land use decision-making.

Wyoming Game & Fish Department. (November 2010). Wind Energy Development in Wyoming. Accessed April 15, 2016.


References

  1.  "B.K. Sovacool. The Avian and Wildlife Costs of Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power. Vermont Law School, Institute for Energy & the Environment. Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, 9:4, 255-278."