Wind energy is beneficial to wildlife; industry proactively addresses impacts
Wind energy is far less harmful to wildlife than the energy sources it traditionally displaces. Moreover, wind energy plays a critical role in reducing air pollution and mitigating the impacts associated with climate change, which represents the most significant threat to wildlife. And, the wind energy industry is proactively addressing the modest impacts on wildlife it does have.
Keeping the air clean for wildlife
The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that climate change may contribute to the extinction of 20-30 percent of all species by 2030. Mitigating climate change poses an immediate need to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Fortunately, wind energy can play a major role in reducing CO2 emissions.
For instance, based on the cumulative 60 GW installed through 2012, wind energy will avoid 95.9 million tons of CO2 annually, or roughly 4.2 percent of CO2 emissions from the entire power sector — equivalent to taking 17.5 million cars off the road.
Wind energy production also emits no other airborne pollutants, such as particulates, methane, mercury, SOx and NOx. All of these pollutants have a proven harmful effect on human health and the environment, including wildlife.
Protecting land and water
Wind power requires no mining or drilling for fuel, and it produces negligible amounts of waste – unlike the production process for other energy sources. Because wind power does not use any water in the generation of electricity, wind power avoids the consumption of an estimated 36.6 billion gallons of water annually, which also benefits wildlife.
How AWEA & the wind energy industry defend wildlife
The wind industry has done more than any other energy industry to study and address impacts to wildlife. In fact, the wind industry voluntarily follows the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines to ensure that it minimizes and mitigates impacts on wildlife.
The wind energy industry has taken on this proactive approach by:
- Participating on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Wind Turbine Guidelines Federal Advisory Committee (FAC);
- Founding the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI), a partnership between wind energy companies and 20 of the nation’s largest science-based conservation and environmental groups including the National Audubon Society, Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club;
- Founding the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC); and
- Founding the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC).
Additional resources on wind energy & wildlife
- The NWCC’s Comprehensive Guide to Studying Wind Energy/Wildlife Interactions is a very useful resource, along with AWEA’s own Siting Handbook.
- The AWEA Wind Energy Siting Handbook was developed by the AWEA Siting Committee to inform wind energy developers and others about siting issues relevant to land-based, commercial-scale, wind energy project development in the United States. The 2008 handbook is being updated.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wind energy page.
- “Responding with Solutions,” the FWS’s article on what the U.S. government and the conservation community is doing to ensure the sustainability of fish, wildlife, plants and habitats in the face of accelerating climate change.
- “Report on Climate Change,” a 2010 State of the Birds report on how the impacts of climate change influence bird populations.
- “Consequences for Wildlife,” a FWS article on how climate change has the potential to increase species extinctions.
AWEA Siting and Environmental Compliance Committee
Develops both short-term and long term strategies to reduce policy and regulatory barriers for siting wind facilities, thus allowing for greater success with project permitting, and reducing the overall cost of development and operations of wind projects. The committee promotes the development of siting tools, such as the USFWS wind energy guidelines, in order to minimize impacts of wind development on wildlife and supports collaborative research efforts, such as those through the American Wind Wildlife Institute and the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative, to fill wind-wildlife interaction data gaps.