Year in Review
As 2019 comes to a close, NWCC looks back on the major events and resources that shaped wind-wildlife conversations over the last year. This post chronologically reviews the news, webinars, and publications covered in the NWCC newsletter in 2019 and underscores the quality and breadth of work being done in the space.
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News & Resources
Proceedings and Materials from the 2018 NWCC Wind Wildlife Research Meeting
Proceedings and materials from the 2018 event, including presentation slides, posters, abstracts, speaker bios, and more, are available online.
Featuring over 35 presentations and 60 posters, the 12th NWCC Wind Wildlife Research Meeting in November 2018 presented the latest research on wind-wildlife interactions. Read our news coverage of the meeting to learn more about the research and themes.
DOE Awards $6.2 Million for Wind Energy Research Projects
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected nine wind energy research projects for awards totaling $6.2 million in funding. The awards seek to further advancement of smart curtailment strategies, advance commercial readiness of bat deterrent technologies, and develop pre- and post-construction monitoring and mitigation solutions for offshore wind energy and wildlife. Learn more about the projects here.
New Bat Monitoring Tool from Conservation Biology Institute and USDA Forest Service
Conservation Biology Institute (CBI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service announced the release of the Bat Acoustic Monitoring Visualization Tool, giving users the ability to visualize more than 6 million bat detections from more than 34 species. The tool is designed to provide users the ability to explore where species have been detected, to learn more about the bats detected at a location, and to examine seasonal trends. Access the tool here.
The Nature Conservancy Launches Site Wind Right Strategy
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) launched Site Wind Right, a strategy intended to promote policies and incentives for low-impact renewable energy deployment; advance the science of low-impact siting; provide the wind industry and public with information to support low-impact siting; and pursue opportunities to work with the renewable energy sector to advance good siting practices. As part of the strategy, TNC developed a Site Wind Right Map intended to identify areas where wind development is unlikely to encounter wildlife-related conflict, project delays, and related cost overruns. Learn more here.
NYSERDA Environmental and Fisheries Research for Offshore Wind Energy Development: Projects Awarded
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded five projects to study environmental and commercial fishing topics related to offshore wind energy development in order to build on the State’s ongoing efforts to expand knowledge regarding important environmental, maritime, economic and social issues identified in New York’s Offshore Wind Master Plan. Read NYSERDA’s press release here.
NREL Announces Project Selection to Address Wind-Wildlife Operations Challenges
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced funding for a new bat deterrent project under the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded Technology and Innovation (TD&I) subcontract. Mide Technology Corporation will work with NREL to develop an ultrasonic device intended to expand the deterrent’s range of influence as compared to deterrents located just in the nacelle by being mounted on the turbine blades. The project is anticipated to run for 18 months, concluding with a technical report and public webinar to share results.
Playa Lakes Joint Venture Develops Interactive Playa Map
Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV), a partnership of state and federal wildlife agencies, conservation groups, and industry, launched an interactive map that allows users to explore the playa region and its playas, wind farms, and other landscape features. The platform is intended to assist with conservation planning, enabling users to sort data by specific criteria and data layers related to wind energy development, and learn about the individual characteristics of more than 70,000 playas across the PLJV region. Learn more about the tool here.
DOE WETO Shares Fiscal Year Highlights 2019
The U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) released its annual highlights from the 2019 Fiscal Year. The topics featured range from wind technology development, to environmental and siting research, to grid services. WETO highlights projects that have advanced as a result of $7 million in funding aimed at reducing the environmental impacts of land-based and offshore wind energy. This work is advancing the development of deterrent technologies and curtailment strategies and environmental monitoring capabilities for offshore wind. Learn more here.
DOE Awards $28 Million for Wind Energy Research Projects
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected 13 wind energy research projects for awards totaling $28 million in funding. The selected projects seek to advance technology development of distributed, offshore, and land-based utility-scale wind. One offshore wind project will receive funding to conduct a demonstration of state-of-the-art sensing technologies to characterize the activity of birds near the project site with the goal of reducing offshore wind energy risk and cost. Learn more about the projects here.
National Audubon Society Releases Report on Climate Change and Birds
The National Audubon Society released a new report and interactive website, Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink. The report finds that two-thirds of North American birds are at increased risk of extinction from climate change. It takes an updated look at how climate change will affect birds under different warming scenarios and outlines Audubon’s strategy for addressing climate change, including supporting the transition to 100% clean electricity. The interactive website offers visitors the ability to search by zip code to learn about impacts on birds in their backyard under different warming scenarios and includes information about energy and climate policy by state. Read the report and explore the interactive website.
NWCC Webinar – Tools for Collecting, Archiving, and Visualizing Bat Monitoring Data, March 22, 2019
The webinar featured presentations on the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) and the Bat Acoustic Monitoring Portal (BatAMP). NABat and BatAMP are intended to help with monitoring, tracking, and documenting bat movements and populations across the continent.
NWCC BWEC Webinar – Tools for Reducing Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines, April 12, 2019
The NWCC webinar on the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC) discussed research priorities and strategies to address bats and wind energy issues. The webinar featured a presentation by Michael Schirmacher, Director, Wind Energy Program for Bat Conservation International.
WREN Webinar – Wind Energy Developments in Europe and North America, April 5, 2019
The webinar on the Working Together to Resolve Environmental Effects of Wind Energy (WREN) discussed European and North American perspectives on spatial considerations involved in offshore wind energy development.
NWCC Webinar – Wind 101: Wind Energy Siting and Development, November 7, 2019
The webinar “Wind 101: An Introduction to Wind Energy Siting and Development” provided an introduction to wind energy to those working in a wind-wildlife or related field. Presenter Michael Speerschneider gave background on wind project siting and development and discussed opportunities and constraints for wind energy from the perspective of permitting, engineering, and economics, as well as the application of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines.
ESA Webinar – Impacts to Wildlife of Wind Energy Siting and Operation in the U.S., October 30, 2019
The webinar discussed a new report in Issues in Ecology that provides current, accurate information about the benefits of wind energy, adverse impacts of wind energy to wildlife, efforts to find solutions, and recommended focus for future research. Presenters gave an overview of key highlights from the report, discussing the benefits of wind energy, what we know about interactions between wind energy and wildlife, priorities for future research, and the value of robust science in wind-wildlife decision making.
BOEM Releases New Study on Tracking rufa Red Knots Near Atlantic OCS Wind Energy Areas
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) published a study on the movements and flight altitudes of the threatened rufa Red Knot in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). By fitting rufa Red Knots with digital VHF (very high frequency) transmitters, researchers were able to track the birds as they crossed a number of Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in the Atlantic OCS. The study found that 8% of VHF tagged birds passed through WEAs during fall migration. Researchers noted that models utilizing altitude sensors could increase the accuracy of estimating the birds’ occurrence in the rotor swept zone of WEAs.
The report cites future use of VHF tracking technologies to estimate exposure of many different species of birds and bats at WEAs as a promising opportunity that could support conservation efforts and assessments of cumulative effects. Read the report here.
Article by Authors from The Nature Conservancy Explores the Role of Mitigation in NEPA and Species Conservation Law
A new article by authors from The Nature Conservancy, “Solid Ground: Using Mitigation to Achieve Greater Predictability, Faster Project Approval, and Better Conservation Outcomes,” (scroll to the second article in link) explores the changing role of mitigation within National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance efforts. Published in the January issue of the Environmental Law Reporter, the paper suggests that a weakening of mitigation policy, and in particular the role of compensatory mitigation, is likely to hamper habitat and species conservation while increasing project development timelines and costs. They recommend a clear and consistent national mitigation policy as an important tool for helping to balance conservation and development needs on projects that may affect listed species.
Analysis of Bird Fatality Data from a Nationwide Database
A new technical report from the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI), “A Summary of Bird Fatality Data in a Nationwide Database,” presents the results of the first analysis of bird data from the American Wind Wildlife Information Center (AWWIC) database.
The AWWIC database is the most comprehensive database of post-construction fatality monitoring data from U.S. wind projects, incorporating both publicly available and contributed data. This report summarizes bird fatality rate and fatality incident data from wind energy facilities in the U.S. and sets the foundation for further studies of what bird species are at risk, and where and why they are at risk.
Effects of Wind Farms on Desert Lizard Populations
A publication in the Journal of Wildlife Management assessed the effects of wind farms in the San Gorgonio Wind Resource Area of California on the side-blotched lizard. Researchers found that wind energy does not “substantially influence” the demography of desert lizards. The authors indicate that because roadways associated with wind-power facilities carry the potential for direct mortality and fragmented habitats, developers must consider these impacts when constructing facilities. Read the article here.
Cumulative Exposure of Wildlife to Offshore Wind Energy Development
In a paper in the Journal of Environmental Management, researchers from the University of Massachusetts and the Biodiversity Research Institute assess the impacts of cumulative exposure of wildlife to offshore wind energy development. The model developed for the study identifies the siting decisions most likely to cause cumulative exposure and provides outputs that could inform regional planning and site-specific mitigation. Read the article here.
Research on the Use of Infrared Technology for Proactive Bat Roost Management Presented at Western TWS Meeting
During the 66th Annual Meeting of the Western Section of The Wildlife Society (February 4-8, 2019), the Nevada Department of Wildlife, in conjunction with Western Ecosystems Technology and Pattern Energy, presented a poster about the use of infrared technology to monitor bat roost use patterns. Researchers found that the employed infrared beam brake system provides a long-term and low maintenance option for passively monitoring bat ingress and egress from cave portals. The collected data indicated a high variance in bat activities, with little consistency for more than a few days. According to the presenters, the technology was also useful in providing real-time and actionable data to nearby wind facilities.
Analysis of White-Winged Scoter Site Selection
In a study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, researchers employed satellite telemetry to document the behavior of the White-winged Scoters along the southern New England continental shelf to better understand habitats, distribution, and site fidelity. Researchers identify factors impacting White-winged Scoter site selection and suggest that these factors be considered in offshore wind energy development planning. Read the article here.
Detailed Modeling of Temporally and Spatially Dynamic Species
A journal publication proposes a new modeling approach to understanding localized species distribution. In applying the model to better understand the location of sea ducks in Nantucket Sound, researchers found that the approach could reduce the risk of modeling errors and increase the ability to better understand local variations in population distribution across time. They suggest that these outcomes can assist in decisions regarding the siting or leasing of renewable energy projects. Access the article here.
A New Approach to Reducing Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities
In a study published in Ecological Applications, researchers analyzed the effectiveness of Turbine Integrated Mortality Reduction (TIMR), a smart curtailment approach, in fatality reduction for a set of bat species in Wisconsin. They found that TIMR resulted in an 84.5% reduction in bat fatalities compared to the employed control turbines. The study also observed a 3.2% decline in average revenues compared to the control turbines. However, the researchers also found that the TIMR approach, in relation to turbines employing standard curtailment procedures, would result in a 48% reduced curtailment time. Read the article here.
Seasonal Activity Patterns of Bats Along Ridgelines in the Central Appalachians
In a recently published article in the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management, researchers sought to provide a greater understanding of hourly activity patterns of migratory bats by employing acoustic monitoring technology in the Virginia Appalachian ridge. The authors suggest that operational mitigation strategies can be used by wind energy facilities to reduce fatalities of migratory bats. In particular, the researchers indicated that slowing or locking wind turbine blades in periods of low wind speed or warm ambient temperatures would lower mortality risk during times of typically high migratory bat activity. Read the article here.
Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts: Balancing Energy Sustainability with Wildlife Conservation
A recently published book includes a selection of presentations at the 4th Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts (CWW). The book provides contemporary perspectives on approaches to monitoring, mitigating, and impact assessment of the effects of wind energy development on wildlife. The book includes case studies and research undertaken by researchers in numerous countries, as well as a high-level assessment of the state research on wind and wildlife interactions. Learn more here.
2019 Update to AWWI Summary of Wind-Wildlife Interactions
The American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) annually updates the report Wind Turbine Interactions with Wildlife and Their Habitats: A Summary of Research Results and Priority Questions, which 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. This year’s update incorporates findings from recent fatality data analyses for birds and bats and pilot studies of eagle impact minimization technologies. Read the updated summary here.
Renewable Energy and Wildlife Conservation
The latest book in Johns Hopkins University Press series on Wildlife Management and Conservation, Renewable Energy and Wildlife Conservation, is intended as a comprehensive resource for exploring research on the effects of renewable energy production on wildlife. Contributors analyze industrial-scale renewables and the ability to minimize impacts to wildlife, suggesting a set of research needs that can help inform future decision making. Learn more about the book here.
Effect of Wind Turbines on Bird Abundance: A National Scale Analysis Based on Fixed Effects Models
An article published in Energy Policy utilizes four large-scale datasets to produce a national-level analysis of wind energy impacts on breeding bird abundance. The researchers found that the aggregate effect of onshore wind in the U.S. on breeding bird count was at the lower end of existing estimates. According to the authors, higher towers are associated with reduced impact, whereas longer blades are associated with an increased impact on breeding bird abundance. Read the article here.
A Long‐term Assessment of Raptor Displacement at a Wind Farm
An article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on a long-term assessment of raptor displacement at wind farms is available Comparing observed raptor abundance from 1-year pre-construction through 7 and 8 years post-construction, the findings suggest that wind farm construction and operation may displace raptors, but that certain raptor species rebounded over time, indicating that wind farm impacts can diminish overtime for certain species. Read more about the study here.
Effect of Geographic Context of Wind Facilities on Landscape Changes
A publication in PeerJ discusses the effects of wind energy facilities’ geographic context – the topography and pre-construction development – on landscape changes resulting from wind energy development. The study found that as the proportion of developed land around facilities increased, a higher proportion of the facility utilized pre-construction developed land and a lower density of new roads were built, resulting in smaller impacts to undeveloped landscapes. The researchers suggest that careful siting and use of existing development may minimize impacts to wildlife from new wind energy facilities. Read the article here.
Analysis of Migratory Shorebird Departure Patterns to Inform Risk from Wind Energy
In an article published in the International Journal of Avian Science, researchers looked to identify predictable long-distance migratory shorebird departure patterns from a staging site that could inform adaptive mitigation methods for wind energy development projects. Researchers found that departure times of northward-migrating shorebirds were more likely at sunset with certain wind and weather conditions. They conclude that adaptive mitigation strategies for wind energy development that are attuned to weather and time of day could reduce the risk to Arctic shorebirds. Read more about the study here.
New Study on Atlantic Sturgeon at a Future Offshore Wind Energy Site
A study published in Scientific Reports aimed to establish baseline information on the activity of endangered Atlantic Sturgeon in the New York Wind Energy Area, a future offshore wind energy development site, to inform monitoring and mitigation needs. Researchers found that activity is highly seasonal, with more activity from November to January and virtually no activity during the summer months. As a result, they suggest that monitoring and mitigation parameters at offshore wind energy developments account for the environmental cues that correspond to the observance of Atlantic Sturgeon. Read the full article here.
Estimating Offsets for Avian Displacement of Anthropogenic Impacts
In a study published in Ecological Applications, researchers look at the effects of energy facilities on reduced use of area habitat by breeding waterfowl and grassland birds and advance a method for estimating offsets needed to compensate for this loss in habitat use. To establish sufficient biological equivalent offsets, the researchers model uses metrics related to impact distance, impact area, pre-impact density, percent displacement, and offset density, and demonstrate the method’s applicability using examples for wind and oil infrastructure. The paper includes a worksheet for users and developers to apply the method to their projects. Read the study here.
Effects of Wind Turbine Noise on Surrounding Soundscape
In an article published in Applied Acoustics, researchers describe how wind turbine noise contributes to the surrounding soundscape in the context of greater-prairie chicken vocalizations. Researchers assessed variation in turbine noise that was at the frequency of male greater prairie-chicken courtship vocalizations near a facility in a contiguous grassland in Brown County, Nebraska. They found increased wind turbine noise during times of higher wind speeds, later in the summer, later in the morning, nearer to the turbines, and within the viewshed of the turbine. Based on findings of the variability of wind turbine noise in the soundscape, the authors suggest further research to evaluate the variation of wind turbine noise at different sites, and whether there are effects on sound-sensitive wildlife. Read the full article here.
Impacts to Wildlife of Wind Energy Siting and Operation in the U.S.
A report in Issues in Ecology, “Impacts to Wildlife of Wind Energy Siting and Operation in the U.S.” provides a peer-reviewed synthesis of current, accurate information about the benefits of wind energy, adverse impacts of wind energy to wildlife, efforts to find solutions, and recommended focus for future research. Authored by 13 experts in wind energy and wildlife science, the publication distills the results of 25 years of focused research resulting from collaboration among the wind energy industry, state and federal agencies, conservation and science groups, and academia. Read the full report here.