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Online Tools Offer Ways to Add Solar, Wind in Harmony With Nature

bird-in-a-tree2To some renewable energy companies, a huge swath of barren desert may seem like the perfect place to set up a major solar installation. But certain endemic or endangered species – or environmental groups looking out for them – might object.

To help companies avoid costly lawsuits and public embarrassment, online tools can provide an answer.

Google recently launched a service that allows companies to survey potential build sites, while considering the native flora and fauna.

The National Audubon Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council have pooled resources such as maps of endangered species habitats, national parks and other forms of protected land. By uploading the data to Google Earth, the information is now easily accessible to renewable energy firms and other companies that want to consider the environmental impact of building projects, according to a press release. The mapping feature, which covers 13 western states, is available here.

Another similar online resource, the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool, is custom-designed for businesses. It was developed by BirdLife International, Conservation International and the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

BP and Cargill, among other large firms, aided in the design of the biodiversity assessment tool, according to the Economist.

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