Management Support Tools

Science Center Objects

USGS scientists build broadly applicable management support tools to assist resource managers and the industry in siting of energy development and selection of off-site mitigation areas.

Each project below is associated with a type of energy production or transmission. Types of energy production or transmission are represented by the following icons:

Hydropower, offshore wind energy, solar energy, and wind energy icons

Abbreviations used in project descriptions are defined on the Energy and Wildife Abbrevations page.

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wind and solar icons

Advancing Wildlife Monitoring Technologies Using Weather Surveillance Radar 

Science Center: Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

USGS research in aeroecology relies on advancing radar and other kinds of remote sensing technology to understand the behavior and ecology of flying animals. The USGS is using both historical data and present-day technologies to observe wildlife behaviors in response to changing habitats and landscapes, such as wind and solar energy development and artificial light, as well as ecological barriers and extreme weather events. This research can help with the development of tools designed to predict risks to flying animals.

 

Wind power icon

Evaluating Population-Level Impacts of Wind Energy Development 

Science Centers: Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center and Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

The impact of wind energy generation on wildlife is commonly approached by monitoring the incidence of mortality resulting from turbine collisions. These mortality events may or may not scale up to observable impacts at a population level. USGS scientists are developing a framework for assessing population-level impacts of wind energy by using abundance time-series data and turbine location maps. The two-part approach first examines whether the timing and placement of turbines on the landscape are coincident with observed population trends at regional scales by using dynamic factor analysis. Next, localized impacts are examined by comparing population trends from sampling locations near wind turbine development with relatively distant locations by using Bayesian structural time-series models. This research can assist conservation managers with wind energy project permitting and the use and interpretation of monitoring protocols for wind facilities.

 

Offshore wind power icon

Evaluation of Offshore Radar-Based Monitoring of Flying Animals 

Science Center: Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

The Icebreaker Wind Project is a pilot, six-turbine offshore wind development proposed for western Lake Erie, 8 miles offshore of Cleveland, Ohio. As part of the environmental regulatory process, project developers gather radar data on the use of project airspace by flying animals during the pre- and post-construction period. At the request of the USFWS, the wind developer, and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, USGS scientists evaluated proposed approaches for using radar to track birds and bats in the airspace. The evaluation addresses technical and environmental concerns that bird monitoring associated with other proposed offshore developments may encounter. This assessment helps decision makers implement a best practice approach to evaluating the risk to flying animals near a proposed development site.

 

Wind power icon

Reducing Bird and Bat Wind Turbine Strikes Using Weather Radar 

Science Center: Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

USGS scientists are collaborating with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory through a DOE-funded Technology Development and Innovation project on a two-pronged study consisting of a localized field component and a national-level assessment to determine whether the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) system can effectively detect wildlife at considerable distances. If this approach is validated, the radar system could then be paired with local visual detection for target identification and be used to alter turbine operations or trigger deterrent systems to reduce wind energy impacts on flying animals.

 

Wind power icon

Review of Bird and Bat Risk From Wind Development 

Science Center: Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center

Attempts to measure and mitigate the effects of wind turbines on wildlife have been an integral part of wind energy development. Collision mortality, displacement, and habitat loss can cause population level effects, especially for rare or endangered species. A team of international researchers, including those from the USGS, reviewed studies from Spain, Norway, Canada, the United States, and southern Africa that document the impact of wind energy development on raptors. The researchers gave an overview of raptor species affected by wind farms, discussed monitoring and mitigation strategies, and addressed how studying raptor behavior can inform turbine siting to minimize collision risks. USGS scientists also summarized current pre-construction assessment risks to wildlife from wind turbines, described the number of species and individuals affected by blade-strikes, and discussed how and why pre-construction monitoring is conducted. Several shortcomings were noted in the methods used to assess the risk of fatality at turbines, including the lack of studies to offer evidence for a link between pre-construction surveys and post-construction fatalities.

 

Hydropower and wind energy icons

Structured Decision Making: Decision Support Frameworks and Tools for Conservation

Science Center: Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Structured decision making (SDM) is an approach for careful and organized analysis of natural resource management decisions. SDM encompasses a set of concepts and steps based on decision theory and risk analysis, including making decisions on the basis of clearly articulated fundamental objectives, recognizing the role of scientific predictions in decisions, dealing explicitly with uncertainty, and responding transparently to societal values in decision making. This approach can be used to address a variety of resource management decisions related to the operation and management of energy infrastructure, including the long-term management of the Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona.

 

Wind power icon

The U.S. Wind Turbine Database

Science Center: Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center

USGS, in collaboration with the Department of Energy and AWEA, updated a national dataset of industry-scale, land-based and offshore wind energy turbines in the United States. The U.S. Wind Turbine Database is an interactive web-based tool that is updated quarterly and provides technical specifications, such as turbine height, blade length, rotor, power generation capacity, and year of construction, for most turbines. Turbine locations were obtained from multiple sources and are digitized and spatially verified. This national map of wind turbines can assist regulatory agencies, NGOs, and other decision makers in planning and management activities.

 

wind and solar icons

Tools to Assess Energy Development Impacts on Sensitive Birds and Bats

Science Center: Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center

A combination of tools is being used to understand how mortality at renewable energy facilities affects populations of sensitive bird and bat species in California. As part of this project, stable isotopes are being used to estimate the geographic scope of the population of birds or bats affected, and demographic modeling is being used to forecast how individual fatalities affect the growth or decline of the species’ populations. Development of analytical methods can aid in determining the best practices for conducting risk assessments and predicting mitigation outcomes. Field survey design and protocols are also being developed and integrated with the developed tools. These tools can allow energy developers to more accurately estimate fatality rates and effects of mitigation techniques at wind and solar energy facilities, which may streamline permitting and ultimately reduce costs of energy development.