Wind project siting guidelines draw praise, criticism

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2012 -The Department of the Interior last week released guidelines the agency says will help wind energy project developers avoid or minimize impacts of land-based wind projects on wildlife and their habitats. Department officials say the voluntary guidelines will not only help shape the siting, design and operation of the nation's wind energy economy, but expand the development of wind projects on both public and private lands, particularly in rural areas.

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“We're committed to working with developers to ensure that wind energy projects are built in the right places and operated in the right way,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. He said the guidelines were developed through a public process that included the wind energy industry, state agencies, and wildlife conservation groups.

Some other wildlife groups, however, say making the guidelines voluntary undermine efforts to curb bird deaths associated with wind farms.

The American Bird Conservancy recently filed a petition calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to create regulations establishing a mandatory permitting system for the operation of wind energy projects and mitigation of their impacts on migratory birds. The conservancy says mandatory regulations would give the wind industry legal certainty, shielding it from liability for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

Research on bird deaths from wind turbines is inexact. The last FWS study in 2008 suggested some 440,000 bird are killed annually, but the wind energy sector capacity has nearly doubled over the past four years. The FWS also estimates that up to 1 million birds are killed each year in oil field pits and at waste facilities, with millions more killed by vehicles, cats and collisions with buildings, power lines and radio towers.

The American Wind Energy Association says wind turbines are responsible for only three out of 100,000 birds killed by human-related causes. The trade group also says that the industry has worked to reduce bird kills even more by the siting wind farms in low-risk areas and restoring their habitat. A fact sheet on the guidelines is available by clicking HERE.


Original story printed in March 28, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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