Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Region

Renewable Energy Development in the Pacific Islands

Hawaiʻi state law requires utility companies to produce 40% of their electricity from renewable sources by December 31, 2030, and places significant emphasis on new wind farms, solar farms, geothermal power plants, biofuel production and processing, hydroelectric projects, offshore wind, ocean thermal energy conversion, and ocean water air conditioning projects to achieve this goal.  Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are also moving forward with energy initiatives to reduce their high electrical costs. 

While alternative energy projects can have substantial societal and environmental benefits, they can also have localized negative impacts on over 500 federally listed species and designated critical habitat under our jurisdiction, as well as other trust resources.  The Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office is available to assist energy project developers to identify potential impacts to federally listed species, and should be contacted as early as possible in the planning process. 

Relevant Authorities and Policy

Endangered Species Act

If the proposed project is funded, authorized, or permitted by a Federal agency, under section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is the Federal agency’s responsibility to make the determination of whether the proposed project “may affect” federally listed species. If it is determined the proposed project may affect federally listed species, we recommend you contact our office early in the planning process so that we may assist you with ESA compliance. 

If no Federal agency is involved with the project, and implementation of the project could result in take of a listed animal species, the project proponent should apply for an incidental take permit under section 10(a)(l)(B) of the ESA. Issuance of a permit requires the applicant to submit to U. S. Fish and WIldlife Service (Service) an acceptable habitat conservation plan (HCP) that describes the project, the measures that will be implemented to minimize impacts to listed species, the amount of take likely to occur, the mitigation measures that will be implemented to offset impacts, and a monitoring and adaptive management program that ensures the minimization and mitigation measures are effective. The HCP process will also require NEPA and section 7 analysis and review.

How Much Time Will the Service's Review Take to Complete?

Depending on a proposed project's location, scope and impact to species, our review and permitting process will take between 135 days for formal Section 7 consultations and 2 years for permitting under section 10 of the ESA.  A visual aid to illustrate our generalized timeline for NEPA and ESA section 10 permitting shows Service and applicant responsibilities during the permitting process and how each step can effect processing can be viewed here: Click here to view the diagram.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) protects migratory birds, their parts, eggs and nests from possession, sale, purchase, barter, transport, import, export, and take. The regulatory definition of take is defined in 50 CFR 10.12 as: to pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or attempt to hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect. The MBTA applies to migratory birds that are identified in 50 C.F.R. § 10.13. Activities that result in the unpermitted take of migratory birds, their eggs, parts, or nests are illegal and prosecutable under the MBTA. Causing abandonment of a nest could constitute violation the statute. Removal or destruction of any active migratory bird nest (i.e. nests with eggs or young in them) is prohibited.

Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act

The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA) provides the basic authority for the Fish and Wildlife Service's involvement in evaluating impacts to fish and wildlife from proposed water resource development projects. It requires that fish and wildlife resources receive equal consideration to other project features. It also requires Federal agencies that construct, license or permit water resource development projects to first consult with the Service (and the National Marine Fisheries Service in some instances) and State fish and wildlife agency regarding the impacts on fish and wildlife resources and measures to mitigate these impacts.

Natural Resource Concerns

Federally listed species with greatest potential to experience impact from renewable energy projects in the Pacific Islands:  over 400 plants, Hawaiian hoary bat, Newell’s shearwater, Hawaiian petrel, Hawaiian coot, duck and moorhen, Hawaiian goose, Blackburn’s sphinx moth, Mariana fruit bat, Mariana crow, Mariana swiftlet, Rota white-eye, Mariana moorhen, Nightingale reed-warbler, in addition to several species of tree snails and picture-wing flies. To read about the species, go to Profile pages.

Infrastructure associated with energy development also has the potential to harm critical or sensitive habitat such as tropical dryland and moist forests, tropical grass and shrublands, wetlands, streams and marine ecosystems. 

Habitat Conservation Plans can apply to both listed and non-listed species, including those that are candidates or have been proposed for listing such as: the  band-rumped storm-petrel, yellow-faced bees, Hawaiian orangeblack damselfly, anchaline pool shrimp, Pacific sheath-tailed bats, Mariana wandering butterfly, Mariana eight-spot butterfly, spotless crake, and the friendly ground dove.

Table of species/islands/energy type concerns – The tables include the Service’s primary concerns to trust resources regarding alternative energy development, primarily impacts on federally listed species and the aquatic and marine ecosystems.

Links for Additional Guidance


Last updated: January 30, 2014
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