Eighth NWCC Wind Wildlife Research Meeting a Success!

On October 19-21, 2010, NWCC hosted its eighth Wind Wildlife Research Meeting in Lakewood, Colorado.  The meeting was attended by over 340 academics, researchers, federal and state officials, NGO representatives, and industry professionals.  We have received extremely positive feedback on the meeting, which is a testament to the hard work of the staff, volunteers, planning committee, moderators, speakers, and poster presenters.  The high-quality of the presentations and posters indicates advances being made on wind-wildlife interaction research.

To place the presentations and posters into the context of the larger wind industry, the meeting opened with a Setting the Stage session featuring panelists from agencies, industry, and a conservation organization addressing policy and discussing their priorities related to wind-wildlife interactions.

During the three days, participants heard over 30 speakers present on the latest applied technical research related to the fatality impacts to birds and bats, impacts to wildlife habitat and behavior, modeling, cumulative and landscape-scale impacts, on-site mitigation techniques and technology, and offshore wind and wildlife issues.  In addition to the sessions and panels, the meeting featured 30 posters on additional wind-wildlife research.

To close the meeting, the American Wind Wildlife Institute coordinated a Research Priorities Panel.  Speakers from each session summarized what they heard during the meeting and identified gaps that need to be addressed moving forward, with the ultimate goal of translating research results into policy.  The main take aways from this panel include the following:

  • While research on estimating fatalities was most prevalent at the meeting, additional focus is needed  to standardize methods to allow study results to be compared from year to year and across sites.
  • A number of studies focused on impacts to bats, indicating a current trend in research focused on increasing the understanding of bat behavior and wind development impacts on bats.
  • Several presentations focused on habitat and behavior impacts, presenting site- and species-specific studies.  Further research is needed to determine if the results found in these studies are applicable on a broader scale and to better understand disturbance and avoidance behaviors of species of concern.
  • Cumulative impacts are difficult to determine, because documenting populations, much less effects, are extremely difficult.  Because of the difficultly in determining cumulative impacts, even for well-understood species, the more appropriate question may be whether we need to understand relative effects or can focus on resilience.
  • Models cropped up throughout the meeting.  There is a need for a carefully planned  tool-kit of models, each with a clearly defined objective and statement of assumptions and data limitations.  The implications of uncertainty in assumptions and data should be tested thoroughly.  There is also a need for simple models bridging the gap between science and practical decisions. Simple models can always be improved as we gain understanding of both the practice and the science.
  • On-site mitigation techniques including curtailment and deterrence are being tested, but the findings need to be fine-tuned and related to the realities of turbine technology and effectiveness.  Off-site mitigation and facility layout techniques need to be evaluated and studied more thoroughly.
  • Continuing offshore research is needed to increase our knowledge base.  Land-based technologies and techniques need to be assessed for applicability to offshore research, and standard protocols need to be developed for gathering data.  Because offshore studies are more difficult than land-based research, we may need to develop alternative ways to facilitate decision making.

At the end of this panel, participants were asked to think about how to bridge gaps across agency, industry, and scientific arenas through continued deliberation and dialogue.