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Federal Agency Completes Wind Turbine Guideline

FWSWindGuidelinesThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent recommendations to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on how to minimize the impact of land-based wind farms on wildlife and habitat. Salazar will review and use the recommendations to help develop federal guidelines for evaluating wind energy development on public and private lands.

The recommendations are the result of a two-year process by a 22-member Wind Turbine Guidelines Federal Advisory Committee.

The report, “Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee” (PDF), provides policy recommendations and voluntary guidelines for siting and operating wind energy projects that will prevent or minimize potential impacts to wildlife and habitat.

A “tiered approach” for assessing potential harmful impacts on wildlife and their habitats is at the heart of the Fish & Wildlife Service’s recommendations to the Interior Secretary. This decision-making framework takes into consideration three primary areas: collecting information in increasing detail, quantifying the possible risks of proposed wind energy projects to wildlife and habitats, and evaluating those risks to make siting, construction, and operation decisions.

The recommended framework guides all stages of wind energy development through a five-tiered approach that is designed to assess the risks of project development at each stage based on site-specific conditions in terms of species and habitat impacts.

The five tiers include:

— Tier 1: Preliminary evaluation or screening of sites

— Tier 2: Site characterization

— Tier 3: Field studies to document site wildlife conditions and predict project impacts

— Tier 4: Post-construction fatality studies

— Tier 5: Other post-construction studies

The guideline also covers mitigation policies and principles, the applicability of adaptive management, and considerations related to cumulative impacts, habitat fragmentation, and landscape-level analysis. It also recommends the need for additional research and collaboration related to potential wind energy wildlife impacts.

Committee members also propose incentives for developers who demonstrate due care by voluntarily implementing the tiered approach and working with the Service during the entire process.

The guideline will likely speed up the long approval process for some wind farm developers. The Cape Wind project is a good example, which has battled local businesses, politicians and environmentalists for several years to build its proposed 130 wind tower farm. Salazar is expected to reach an agreement on the project by the end of April.

But despite the long process, the U.S. wind industry installed 10,000 megawatts of capacity in 2009, with new wind power projects accounting for 39 percent of all new generating capacity last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

In other wind energy news, the AWEA recommends operational upgrades to the  electric utility system to make it more efficient and capable of handling larger amounts of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

In a filing (PDF) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the AWEA recommends several steps that the agency should take to upgrade grid operating procedures to accommodate new energy sources and advanced computing and communications technology.

“These reforms will make the power system operate more efficiently, even in areas where there is not a large amount of wind energy,” said Rob Gramlich, AWEA senior VP for Public Policy, in a press release. Other benefits include lower energy bills and more reliable power, he said.

Gramlich said many of the reform recommendations have already been adopted by Europe where wind provides ten percent or more of the electricity supply in many countries including Spain, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, and Denmark.

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6 thoughts on “Federal Agency Completes Wind Turbine Guideline

  1. I was copied yesterday on a response to the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee on communication that notifies the FAC that they should anticipate an official “60-day notice of intent to bring a Citizen’s Suit under the Endangered Species Act for bringing such a biased report before the Secretary of Interior.”
    It’s copied to over 400 interested parties.

    There is enormous environmental consequence looming as final draft Wind Turbines Guidelines Advisory Committee guidelines optionally direct U.S. land-based wind energy development as identified killers of bird and bat life. Ample evidence that “Federal guidelines must be required rather than voluntary” exists stated the distinguished Donald Michael Fry the elected Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Environmental Studies Program at MMS., PhD Director, Pesticides and Birds Program of the American Bird Conservancy to Chairwoman Bordello and members of the Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee on May 1, 2007; at Oversight Hearing on: “Gone with the Wind: Impacts of Wind Turbines on Birds and Bats”.

    Similar testimony was offered by Dr. Wallace of ABC to the Committee in 2008. His clear message, too, was to mandate the FAC guidelines.

    “Secretary Kempthorne has clearly skewed the composition of the committee in favor of the industry representatives while ignoring leading experts on critical wildlife impacts,” said Eric R. Glitzenstein of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, the law firm representing the groups. “This is precisely the kind of committee composition that the Federal Advisory Committee Act was designed to prohibit,” he added.


    How unfortunate it is for avian life, and those who value it, that this FAC acts in the interest of wind developers, contrary to the interest of wildlife. As Best Science is ignored by this FAC, these guidelines remain optional observance by those profit-minded who have in the past demonstrated callous disregard toward the welfare of our feathered friends.

  2. I have commented elsewhere about the need to move forward on renewable energy and climate change mitigation steps. I have also noted how single-topic interest groups frequently oppose positive steps along these lines; from the oil & coal lobbies, to other industry lobbyists, and also including various environmental groups.

    In this case, Barbara Durkin’s comment clearly demonstrates single-topic opposition to badly needed renewable energy. Here, she is opposing an entire renewable energy industry.

    Barbara, you are missing some crucial points:

    1) Huge numbers of birds, bats, and other creatures are killed or otherwise harmed by our current crop of coal-fired power plants that spew untold gigatons of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change, additional tons of mercury emissions that contribute to widespread damage, deformity, and death of many wild species (including birds), etc., etc. And don’t forget, humans also suffer adverse health consequences from these same emissions.

    2) Global climate change also directly and negatively impacts entire natural ecosystems and the plants and animals within them (including birds). It also directly and negatively impacts humans.

    3) You cannot name a single organized human activity that has zero negative impacts on our natural environment. It’s a question of balancing our organized activities to minimize the impacts, as opposed to eliminating them.

    In balance, I believe that far fewer birds and other wild species will be negatively impacted by large scale deployment of wind turbines; than are currently being negatively impacted by our current methods of energy generation. There’s nothing wrong with siting turbines with an eye towards reducing bird and bat kills. But that should never be the sole consideration in approving any wind turbine project. There are far more factors involved, many of which indicate that bird and bat populations would probably be better off with large scale wind turbine deployment, than they would be without such deployments.

    Don’t be a single-topic opponent of this kind of badly-needed infrastructure change. Climate change isn’t waiting – it’s coming right down our throats. For our health, for our economy, for our future, and, yes, for the benefit of the wild species living alongside us; we need to move forward on the sustainable, renewable, and low-carbon infrastructure path.

  3. “Pesticides, cars, buildings – even the family cat – kill more birds per year on average than a wind turbine.” – Bill Jaspersohn, Vermont Public Radio commentary

  4. Doug:

    We should first establish that wind energy is “badly needed”.
    Presently, tax and ratepayers are funding a faith-based wind initiative. So, let’s tie by index wind energy’s (badly needed) generous public subsidies to reduction in harmful emissions by wind energy.

    Michael Boyd-President of CAlifornians for Renewable Energy to this FAC:

    “One problem that makes the Guidelines subject to review of the agency’s actions for bias are conclusive statements that present no evidentiary basis for such conclusionary statements. I addressed this in my initial comments and the language is still present in the Final Recommendation where it states as follows:

    “Wind energy produces electricity without air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, mining, drilling, refining, waste storage and other problems associated with many traditional forms of energy generation. Wind energy has recently received increased attention because it is a domestic source of energy, and because carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion is the leading cause of anthropogenic climate change, which is likely tohave serious negative impacts on ecosystems and wildlife.[[1]] The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that a single 1.5 MW wind turbine displaces 2700 metric tons of CO2 per year compared with the current U.S. average utility fuel mix.[[2]] In some locations, wind prevents urban and suburban encroachment into traditional greenbelts. Given these advantages, wind is expected to play an increasingly important role in meeting the nation’s energy goals in the coming years.”

    Specifically the statement “anthropogenic climate change, which is likely to have serious negative impacts on ecosystems and wildlife” has no substantial evidentiary basis for being true, i.e., no cause and effect has been established. On the other hand such cause and effect is well established by science for wind turbines harming avian wildlife. It demonstrates a clear agency bias in favor of the wind industry by including such statements and this fact demonstrates the Guidelines if adopted by DOI would cause direct harm to avian wildlife and would require an EIS be prepared first therefore.”

    Wind energy has not addressed “climate change” where its been deployed. While wind energy has killed millions of birds and bats. And wind developers have demonstrated that optional wind turbine siting guidelines do not work to mitigate or reduce harm to wildlife caused by wind turbines.

    This FAC is biased in favor of wind interests’ that are served by unlimited development potential.


  5. Barbara, I am sorry to have missed your reply to my comment for such an extended period. Let me reply now.

    I (and nearly every other reputable and credible scientist in the field) completely disagree with the statements to the effect that anthropogenic climate change, and its serious negative impacts, has not been established beyond reasonable scientific doubt. Cause and effect have been established. Just read the evidence gathered by the IPCC, and that gathered by the National Academies of Science and Engineering. Attempting to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence establishing the existence and effects of anthropogenic climate change is both foolish and counter productive.

    You have failed to prove that “It demonstrates a clear agency bias in favor of the wind industry by including such statements and this fact demonstrates the Guidelines if adopted by DOI would cause direct harm to avian wildlife”. Even if a bias existed (which is doubtful), that alone would not demonstrate that direct harm to avian wildlife would result. Furthermore, direct harm to avian wildlife (as well as to other forms of wildlife) has been scientifically demonstrated to exist as a result of burning coal and other fossil fuels to produce energy. And far more birds and other wildlife are killed, deformed, or otherwise harmed by the use of fossil fuels than are expected to be adversely affected by even large scale deployment of wind energy – and this is especially true for offshore wind energy farms, since songbirds and bats rarely fly over significant stretches of open ocean water.

    Wind energy has addressed “climate change” where it has been deployed, in direct contradiction to your unsupported statement. Every single wind turbine that is put into service directly reduces the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that would otherwise have been released by burning fossile fuels. There can be no debate about that.

    In summary, your concerns about avian wildlife, your attempts to sow doubt about anthropogenic climate change, and your apparent ignorance concerning the harmful effects of fossil fuel use; are all unfounded.

  6. In response to your comment “Presently, tax and ratepayers are funding a faith-based wind initiative. So, let’s tie by index wind energy’s (badly needed) generous public subsidies to reduction in harmful emissions by wind energy. “:

    There’s nothing “faith-based” about it. As noted above, every single wind turbin in service directly reduces GHG emissions that would otherwise have resulted from fossil fuel use.

    Furthermore, to anyone who may be concerned about subsidies for renewable energy; have I got some news for you. Renewable energy subsidies in the U.S. amount to perhaps $30B-$40B annually (it varies). But subsidies for fossil fuels amount to some $72B! Why are we the taxpayers subsidizing fossil fuels?! And lest you forget, we all get to pay even more for fossil fuel use when we open our utility bills every month!

    Finally, do you feel bad because you think that “wind energy has killed millions of birds and bats”? Then how do you feel about the billions of birds and bats killed and deformed by the use of fossil fuels to produce electricity?

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