Wind Energy Industry Supports Being Held to the Highest Standard in US for Wildlife Protection

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It seems that green industries are sometimes held to a higher standard than other industries on all environmental matters. For example, even though wind and solar energy are worlds better than their fossil fuel alternatives (in many ways), they are fiercely attacked when they create any environmental or wildlife harm. Is that a good thing? Well, that’s a complicated question,… but it certainly does help the industries to be even greener than they naturally are.

In the latest news along these lines, the wind energy industry is supporting federal guidelines that hold it to a higher standard than any other industry in the nation when it comes to wildlife protection. Here’s an American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) news release from yesterday on the matter:

Wind Energy Industry Unites to Endorse Final USFWS Siting Guidelines

40 companies join AWEA in sending supportive letter to Secretary Salazar

May 16, 2012–The wind industry supports new federal guidelines to ensure that wind farms further minimize any impacts on wildlife, according to a letter released today.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the national trade association representing the interests of the wind energy industry, including project developers and facility owner-operators, sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, expressing support for the final version of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) voluntary land-based Wind Energy Guidelines, which were publicly released in final form in late March 2012. These guidelines followed nearly five years of collaboration between the wind energy industry, wildlife conservation organizations, native American tribes, and federal and state regulators.

By supporting and using the Guidelines, the wind energy industry is voluntarily agreeing to be held to a higher standard for wildlife protection than any other industry in the country, and even beyond what is required by federal law. In addition to AWEA, 40 individual member companies, including project developers, utilities, and turbine manufacturers signed the letter, showing the collective commitment to a process that represents a reasonable balance between the need to deploy wind energy and addressing the relatively modest impacts associated with development and operation of wind facilities.

Actual data from more than 80 post-construction mortality studies puts the impact of wind energy at approximately three birds per megawatt per year on average, which at currently installed levels equates to roughly 140,000 birds per year. By contrast, the impact is in the hundreds of millions of birds a year from collisions with buildings, domestic cats, and other human structures and activities, according to the USFWS and national conservation organizations. 

Even prior to the finalization of these Guidelines, the wind energy industry has done more pre- and post-construction wildlife studies than any other industry, and regularly mitigates for impacts.

The industry has also been proactive in collaborating with wildlife agencies and conservation organizations to resolve this challenge by supporting the creation of new organizations like the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative, the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative, and the American Wind Wildlife Institute, which promote research and best practices.

Wind energy is a clean, inexhaustible, homegrown source of energy that is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to generate electricity as it emits no pollution, creates no hazardous waste, and uses virtually no water. “AWEA and its member companies hope that through proper implementation, we and the other stakeholders will be able to collectively ensure that wildlife is adequately protected, while we create an environment in which robust development of U.S. wind energy can continue for years to come,” said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA.

A copy of the letter, including signatories, is below.


May 15, 2012

The Honorable Ken Salazar, Secretary
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar:

Thank you for your leadership on the development and finalization of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Voluntary Wind Energy Guidelines, which were largely based on recommendations provided by the Federal Advisory Committee.  We write as AWEA, the national trade association representing all aspects of the wind energy industry, and individual project developers and owners, to express our support for the final version of the Guidelines.  The undersigned companies support the use of the Guidelines and AWEA commits to training its members on the Guidelines and urging adherence to them.

The publication of the final version of the Guidelines on March 23rd was the culmination of over 5 years of a painstaking, but collaborative, process between representatives of the wind energy industry, conservation community, USFWS, states, and tribes.  We should collectively be proud of the process that resulted in the development of these important siting guidelines, which hold this industry to a higher standard than is legally required and to a higher standard than any other energy industry in the country.

It is important to note that while no stakeholder got everything they wanted in the final version of the Guidelines, we believe they were developed through a fair and transparent process that resulted in a document that addresses the interests of all parties.  To the extent there are issues remaining that need clarification, we are optimistic they can be addressed during training and implementation of the guidelines.  These Guidelines will not only improve siting practices generally, but will also protect federally-listed as well as non-trust wildlife and their habitats to a greater degree than allowed under mandatory regulation.

As you are well aware, wind energy is a clean, inexhaustible, homegrown source of energy that is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to generate electricity as it emits no pollution, creates no hazardous waste, and uses virtually no water.  These Guidelines represent a reasonable balance between the need to deploy wind energy and the need to protect wildlife and address wind energy’s modest impacts.

We look forward to working with the USFWS staff and other stakeholders during the implementation of these Guidelines so that they are properly interpreted and utilized by both the Service and industry.  We hope that through proper implementation we will be able to collectively ensure that wildlife are being adequately protected, while creating an environment where robust development of wind energy will continue to occur across our nation for years to come.



Acciona Energy North America
Akuo Energy
Alton Energy
American Wind Energy Association
Apex Wind Energy
BP Wind Energy, N.A.
Clean Line Energy Partners LLC
Clipper Windpower Development Company LLC
CPV Renewable Energy Company LLC
DTE Energy
Duke Energy Renewables
Edison Mission Energy
EDP Renewables, North America LLC
Element Power
Enel Green Power North America
E.ON Climate & Renewables North America
EverPower Wind LLC
First Wind
Iberdrola Renewables LLC
Infinity Wind Power
Invenergy LLC
MAP Royalty
NextEra Energy
Nordex Energy Renewables
OwnEnergy, Inc.
Pacific Gas & Electric
Pattern Energy
Portland General Electric
Power Company of Wyoming LLC
Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc.
Shell WindEnergy Inc.
Terra-Gen Power
TradeWind Energy LLC
US Mainstream Renewable Power, Inc.
Vestas – American Wind Technology, Inc.
Wasatch Wind Intermountain
Wind Capital Group

Thank you to the wind industry for all it does!

Image: wind turbines & birds via Shutterstock

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