Washington, D.C., Dec. 27, 2005 — As wind energy development expanded across the United States throughout 2005, the American wind energy industry continued to focus on the environmental performance of the domestically-produced, renewable source of electricity. While wind energy is one of the cleanest, most environmentally-friendly forms of electricity generation, all forms of energy generation, including wind, involve environmental impacts that must be addressed.
The wind energy industry and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) continued to work collaboratively with numerous public and private stakeholders in 2005 to address issues related to local impacts from wind energy projects around the country.
The wind industry’s ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship in 2005 included the following activities, according to AWEA:
* AWEA maintained its commitment to researching solutions to bat impacts from wind turbines through the Bats & Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC). Starting in 2004, the industry began working in collaboration with the U.S. government and the world’s leading bat conservation organization to study bat mortality and find ways to reduce it. In 2005, this effort continued, building on the foundation of the first year of the partnership.
* In December 2005, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a Record of Decision on its Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement designed to streamline project development on BLM-managed lands by setting up responsible Best Management Practices. AWEA solicited and provided information from industry experts in BLM’s public comments process on the document. As part of the decision, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service found that the nine species identified that could be affected would not suffer significant adverse impacts from planned wind development. The BLM concluded that its review will “allow the Bureau of Land Management to significantly expand its wind energy program on public lands while ensuring the conservation of threatened and endangered species and migratory birds.”
* The wind industry engaged in numerous discussions with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the national, regional, state and field office levels to understand and address potential wildlife impacts.
* This year the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the environmental impacts of wind energy. AWEA cooperated fully with GAO’s research work, arranging tours of wind facilities, providing knowledgeable industry and technical contacts, and gathering information from industry sources. While the report called for more studies on wildlife impacts, it also noted that “it does not appear that wind power is responsible for a significant number of bird deaths,” especially when viewed in comparison with other, much more deadly human-related sources of bird mortality.
* Last year, a Congressional earmark added to a spending bill directed the National Academies to conduct a study on the adverse and beneficial effects of wind energy projects using the Mid-Atlantic as a case example. In 2005, the National Research Council began their work that is expected to conclude at the end of 2006. AWEA and the wind industry are providing expertise and information to the panel as appropriate.
* AWEA and industry members also continue to participate in the National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC), a multi-stakeholder group that includes state and federal wildlife agencies, environmental groups, scientists, consultants and wind energy companies. The NWCC Wildlife Work Group works to identify and address issues of concern as they arise in a collaborative fashion, and also plays a leading role nationally in convening conferences to disseminate the latest wind/wildlife research.
* AWEA held the second in a series of wind siting workshops to educate its members on the latest findings and information on siting issues and to encourage responsible practices. The third workshop in this series is scheduled for Washington, D.C., on February 22, 2006.
* AWEA launched a new web resource (see story) to serve as an information clearinghouse for media, wind energy developers, utilities, the financial community and interested public citizens. The site features fact sheets, photos, statistics, links and a resource library. It provides detailed information about how wind energy works, environmental impacts of wind energy development, and the economic, environmental and energy contributions of this clean, renewable, domestic resource.