American Wind Wildlife Institute

Washington, DC, United States

American Wind Wildlife Institute

Washington, DC, United States
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Flanders N.P.,North Carolina State University | Flanders N.P.,Old Dominion University | Gardner B.,North Carolina State University | Winiarski K.J.,University of Massachusetts Amherst | And 4 more authors.
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2015

Seabirds are of conservation concern, and as new potential risks to seabirds are arising, the need to provide unbiased estimates of species' distributions is growing. We applied community occupancy models to detection/non-detection data collected from repeated aerial striptransect surveys conducted in 2 large study plots off southern New England, USA; one off the coast of Rhode Island and the other in Nantucket Sound. A total of 17 seabird species were observed at least once in each study plot. We found that detection varied by survey date and effort for most species and the average detection probability across species was less than 0.4. We estimated the influence of water depth, sea surface temperature, and sea surface chl a concentration on species-specific occupancy. Diving species showed large differences between the 2 study plots in their predicted winter distributions, which were largely explained by water depth acting as a stronger predictor of occupancy in Rhode Island than in Nantucket Sound. Conversely, similarities between the 2 study plots in predicted winter distributions of surface-feeding species were explained by sea surface temperature or chlorophyll a concentration acting as predictors of these species' occupancy in both study plots. We predicted the number of species at each site using the observed data in order to detect 'hot-spots' of seabird diversity and use in the 2 study plots. These results provide new information on detection of species, areas of use, and relationships with environmental variables that will be valuable for biologists and planners interested in seabird conservation in the region. © Inter-Research 2015.

News Article | November 10, 2015

New rules may close off valuable wind resources. New federal rules for Calif. desert put too many prime wind energy sites off-limits By Nancy Rader, Executive Director of CalWEA, and Tom Darin, Western State Policy Director, AWEA Today, modern wind technology and siting techniques allow American wind power to both cut emissions and preserve lands and wildlife. It’s a big reason why the U.S. wind energy industry has gained recognition for its legacy of care. However, a new plan released today by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), focusing on a vast resource area that offers many prime sites for renewable energy growth in Southern California, outlines a different approach to balancing environmental impact with renewable energy development: a system of “no-go” zones, which threatens to lock up most of the promising sites for wind energy for decades. The plan, called the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), states a planning goal of 20,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy, yet is expected to dramatically limit the amount of new renewable energy growth in Southern California. The plan presents a challenge and it has the potential to cause some headaches as both President Obama and California Gov. Jerry Brown have laid out goals to reduce carbon pollution from the energy sector – that includes targets for California to obtain 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewables by 2030. The DRECP planning area is vast – 22 million acres. But, while the BLM plan provides nine million acres for conservation and recreation, it provides less than 400,000 acres for renewable energy exploration, and will allow a maximum of just 121,000 acres for actual renewable energy development. The plan puts approximately three million acres that had been available for solar and wind development completely off- limits. The limited area for renewable energy provided for by BLM will therefore make it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the planning goal of 20,000 MW of renewable energy. That’s because, while the draft proposal assumes that “development focus areas” (DFAs) on private land will account for about 75% of total DFA acreage, county governments have shown little inclination in their DRECP-related planning efforts to host utility-scale wind and solar projects. Indeed, Los Angeles County has tentatively approved a prohibition on wind energy, while the draft DRECP envisioned that nearly 1,000 MW of wind energy would be developed there. Alameda, Contra Costa, Kern, Riverside, Solano, and other California counties already host 6,000 MW of wind turbine capacity, which now supplies 6.5 percent of the state’s homegrown electricity. That has contributed to the more than $11 billion dollars in capital investment attracted to the state’s economy by wind. It’s also why wind supports up to 3,000 jobs across the state, provides $70 million in annual property tax revenues to local governments, and pays California landowners $17.8 million dollars a year in lease payments for hosting wind turbines. The wind industry has been actively involved in the eight-year DRECP planning process, and has highlighted the best wind resources suitable for development while maintaining low environmental impacts. However, the California Wind Energy Association (CalWEA) estimates that the plan eliminates about 80 percent of the best wind energy resources on BLM lands in California, which are in fact the most suitable remaining wind resources available in all of California. CalWEA also estimates that the proposal will, at best, result in 1,000 MW of wind capacity.  Nevertheless, approximately 7,000 MW of wind in a portfolio of roughly 19,000 MW of new sources of renewable energy are needed for the state to cost-effectively meet its goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. The new approach presented by the DRECP definitely presents a challenge – one that the U.S. wind energy industry, federal and state officials will need to work on together. The primary challenge arises from two different approaches to wind energy development and conservation — the zoning go, no-go approach within the DRECP, and the tiered, risk-based approach called for in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services voluntary guidelines for land based wind energy that are followed by wind energy developers. First, the DRECP adopts an approach with a rigid design that doesn’t allow for future advancements that, over time, could further reduce wind energy’s already low environmental impacts. Progress in technology and siting are expected to show that wind energy and wildlife and habitat conservation can coexist in areas that today are permanently considered “no-go” areas by the DRECP. Second, the DRECP’s new zoning determinations are also based on high-level analysis and, in many cases, with large data gaps and a lack of site-specific information. Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t allow the flexibility needed for wind developers to access the best wind resources and avoid the most sensitive locations using the existing tiered siting approach already outlined in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wind Energy Guidelines. American wind power has worked for years alongside mainstream conservation organizations that support developing wind power because of the role it plays in mitigating the negative effects of climate change – the greatest threat to all wildlife and our society. As an example of this collaboration, various wind energy developers working with leaders in the conservation community formed the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI), whose mission is “[to] facilitate timely and responsible development of wind energy while protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat.” This approach has helped make the U.S. number one in the world in wind energy production while also having the lowest impact on the environment when compared to all other sources of electricity in the U.S. That’s why the wind industry looks forward to continuing to work with state and federal agencies, and environmental groups, on landscape-level efforts in order to harmonize these two approaches to better strike the right balance between development and environmental protection. That balance is essential if we are to successfully cut carbon pollution and meet California’s, and the nation’s, ambitious goals for renewable energy.

Cochrane J.F.,American Wind Wildlife Institute | Lonsdorf E.,Franklin And Marshall College | Allison T.D.,American Wind Wildlife Institute | Sanders-Reed C.A.,American Wind Wildlife Institute
Ecological Applications | Year: 2015

Challenges arise when renewable energy development triggers "no net loss" policies for protected species, such as where wind energy facilities affect Golden Eagles in the western United States. When established mitigation approaches are insufficient to fully avoid or offset losses, conservation goals may still be achievable through experimental implementation of unproven mitigation methods provided they are analyzed within a framework that deals transparently and rigorously with uncertainty. We developed an approach to quantify and analyze compensatory mitigation that (1) relies on expert opinion elicited in a thoughtful and structured process to design the analysis (models) and supplement available data, (2) builds computational models as hypotheses about cause-effect relationships, (3) represents scientific uncertainty in stochastic model simulations, (4) provides probabilistic predictions of "relative" mortality with and without mitigation, (5) presents results in clear formats useful to applying risk management preferences (regulatory standards) and selecting strategies and levels of mitigation for immediate action, and (6) defines predictive parameters in units that could be monitored effectively, to support experimental adaptive management and reduction in uncertainty. We illustrate the approach with a case study characterized by high uncertainty about underlying biological processes and high conservation interest: estimating the quantitative effects of voluntary strategies to abate lead poisoning in Golden Eagles in Wyoming due to ingestion of spent game hunting ammunition. © 2015 by the Ecological Society of America.

Allison T.D.,American Wind Wildlife Institute | Root T.L.,Stanford University | Frumhoff P.C.,Union of Concerned Scientists
Climatic Change | Year: 2014

Increasing greenhouse gas emissions are projected to raise global average surface temperatures by 3˚–4 °C within this century, dramatically increasing the extinction risk for terrestrial and freshwater species and severely disrupting ecosystems across the globe. Limiting the magnitude of warming and its devastating impacts on biodiversity will require deep emissions reductions that include the rapid, large-scale deployment of low-carbon renewable energy. Concerns about potential adverse impacts to species and ecosystems from the expansion of renewable energy development will play an important role in determining the pace and scale of emissions reductions and hence, the impact of climate change on global biodiversity. Efforts are underway to reduce uncertainty regarding wildlife impacts from renewable energy development, but such uncertainty cannot be eliminated. We argue the need to accept some and perhaps substantial risk of impacts to wildlife from renewable energy development in order to limit the far greater risks to biodiversity loss owing to climate change. We propose a path forward for better reconciling expedited renewable energy development with wildlife conservation in a warming world. © 2014, The Author(s).

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