Learning From Real-World Experience to Understand Renewable Energy Impacts to Wildlife

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A comprehensive analysis of how renewable energy facilities affect wildlife could inform efforts to predict and reduce these impacts. A team of researchers was asked to gain a better understanding of the actual environmental impacts of renewable energy generation on sensitive species and habitats in California. 

Using data from pre- and post-construction wildlife surveys conducted by wind and solar energy facilities, the team addressed three main components: 1) a literature review of reports from  wind and solar facilities in California to examine fatality monitoring data and survey designs, as well as mitigation strategies, to improve predictive accuracy; 2) an assessment of the place of origin of birds and bats killed at facilities to estimate the size of affected populations; and 3) development of population models to determine whether the rate of fatalities would put populations at a high risk of decline. Detailed results are summarized in this report, which provides a starting point for a framework and specific tools for understanding environmental impacts of renewable energy generation. These concepts are developed more fully in a series of peer-reviewed publications produced, or in production, by the research team.

Conkling, T.J., Vander Zanden, H.B., Poessel, S.A., Loss, S.R., Allison, T.D., Diffendorfer, J.E., Duerr, A.E., Nelson, D.M., Yee, J.L., Katzner, T.E., 2020, Learning From Real-World Experience to Understand Renewable Energy Impacts to Wildlife: California Energy Commission. Publication Number: CEC-500-2020-012, p. 1-132. 

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