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Wind energy development: Methods for assessing risks to birds and bats pre-construction

May 16, 2016

Wind power generation is rapidly expanding. Although wind power is a low-carbon source of energy, it can impact negatively birds and bats, either directly through fatality or indirectly by displacement or habitat loss. Pre-construction risk assessment at wind facilities within the United States is usually required only on public lands. When conducted, it generally involves a 3-tier process, with each step leading to more detailed and rigorous surveys. Preliminary site assessment (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tier 1) is usually conducted remotely and involves evaluation of existing databases and published materials. If potentially at-risk wildlife are present and the developer wishes to continue the development process, then on-site surveys are conducted (Tier 2) to verify the presence of those species and to assess site-specific features (e.g., topography, land cover) that may influence risk from turbines. The next step in the process (Tier 3) involves quantitative or scientific studies to assess the potential risk of the proposed project to wildlife. Typical Tier-3 research may involve acoustic, aural, observational, radar, capture, tracking, or modeling studies, all designed to understand details of risk to specific species or groups of species at the given site. Our review highlights several features lacking from many risk assessments, particularly the paucity of before-and-after-control- impact (BACI) studies involving modeling and a lack of understanding of cumulative effects of wind facilities on wildlife. Both are essential to understand effective designs for pre-construction monitoring and both would help expand risk assessment beyond eagles.

Publication Year 2016
Title Wind energy development: Methods for assessing risks to birds and bats pre-construction
DOI 10.26077/phxc-zh11
Authors Todd E. Katzner, Victoria Bennett, Tricia A. Miller, Adam E. Duerr, Melissa A. Braham, Amanda Hale
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Human-Wildlife Interactions
Index ID 70170981
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center