July 14, 2003
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently published in the Federal Register voluntary interim guidelines to help energy companies avoid and minimize wildlife impacts from wind turbines.
These guidelines will help energy companies locate and design wind energy facilities in a manner that ensures protection of wildlife resources, while streamlining the site selection and facility design process and avoiding unanticipated conflicts after construction.
The guidelines focus on three key areas; the proper evaluation and selection of potential wind energy development sites, the proper location and design of turbines and associated structures within sites selected for development, and research and monitoring to identify and assess impacts to wildlife. The guidance is intended for land-based wind turbines and wind farms on all Federal, State, and private lands within the United States.
"Clean renewable energy is very important for America; however, improperly sited or designed wind energy facilities can adversely impact wildlife, especially birds and bats, and their habitats," said Service Director Steve Williams. "With voluntary cooperation from the wind industry in implementing these guidelines, we can avoid impacts to wildlife, streamline the environmental review process, and increase the availability of renewable energy resources."
The Service encourages immediate use of the guidelines by the wind energy industry and solicits comments on guideline effectiveness. The guidelines will be evaluated over a two-year period, and then modified as necessary based on their performance in the field and on the latest scientific and technical discoveries developed in coordination with industry, states, academic researchers, other federal agencies and the public.
Examples of the guidelines include avoiding the placement of turbines in documented locations of any species protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act; avoiding fragmentation of large, contiguous tracts habitat; using tubular supports with pointed tops to minimize bird perching; and avoiding solid red or pulsating red incandescent lights as they appear to attract night-migrating birds.
The Service created a Wind Turbine Siting Working Group in January 2002 to develop these guidelines, in response to the Secretary of the Interior's Renewable Energy on Public Lands Initiative which endorses wind energy development on Federal lands.
The Department of the Interior has been re-evaluating its existing renewable energy programs on its lands. It is also assessing current limitations on industry access to Federal lands. These actions are intended to both increase the Department's use of renewable energy and to assist industry in increasing renewable energy production, in an environmentally friendly manner, on Department managed lands. Development of wind energy is a significant component of this initiative.
Commercial wind energy facilities have been constructed in 29 States, with developments planned for several other states, as well as coastal and offshore areas. As more facilities with larger turbines are built, the cumulative effects of this rapidly growing industry could potentially contribute to the decline of some wildlife populations. The potential harm to these populations makes careful evaluation of proposed facilities essential. Due to local differences in wildlife concentration and movement patterns, habitat types, geography, facility design, and weather, each proposed development site is unique and requires detailed, individual evaluation. The guidelines will also assist all Interior Department agencies in providing technical assistance to the wind energy industry.
The guidelines may be accessed
on the Service's web site at http://www.fws.gov/r9dhcbfa.
Comments on the interim guidelines must be postmarked by July 10, 2005,
and sent to Dr. Benjamin N. Tuggle, Chief, Division of Federal Program
Activities, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive,
Arlington, Virginia 22203.
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.
Atlanta, GA 30345