Siting renewable energies so it is both low-carbon and sustainable for wildlife populations
Golden Eagle Photo: Nathan Rupert
Climate change is one of today’s most significant threats facing birds and people alike, and renewable energy will be a substantial part of the solution to global warming. Across the US and in California in particular, renewable energy have been rapidly developing and expanding in recent years. But with the growth of the industry must also come careful and strategic planning.
Audubon consistently advocates that new projects must be sited right. The idea behind so-called “smart siting” is that power plants and transmission lines must be located and designed using methods that avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to the fullest extent possible. Smart-siting really follows a few simple and intuitive steps: identify and avoid important wildlife areas; within a project footprint, identify and avoid areas that will pose the greatest risk to wildlife; place power plants close to people so less transmission infrastructure is needed; and develop power plants on previously-disturbed land to protect habitat.
Audubon California and our allies have the opportunity to push renewable energy development down the right path in a state that is leading the country in setting renewable energy goals. What happens in California is being watched across the world. We can show that low-carbon energy can be developed in a way that is economical and sustainable for local wildlife and habitats.
The resources below offer a more detailed explanation of smart-siting, as well as considerations for different types of renewable energy. Further resources for Audubon chapter members can be found by visiting the Moore Charitable Foundation Energy Siting Resource Center on Audubon Works.
An interesting new study is analyzing potential risks to birds and other wildlife resulting from offshore wind projects off the California Central Coast.
California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird issued a statement today regarding the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. Like Audubon California, he thinks it's a perfect lousy idea to reopen negotiations on the landmark conservation deal.:
“The 2016 Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is the result of over eight years of collaborative effort and public participation involving the California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as local governments, renewable energy companies, environmental groups, businesses, and citizens. Hundreds of meetings, thousands of public comments, and deep commitment of public agencies generated a Plan that provides for renewable energy production from public lands while also protecting the incredibly rich biological, cultural, recreational, and many other values of the California desert.
The Plan itself allows for modifications and course corrections, and due to the combined input, resulted in zero lawsuits. Reopening the plan is a waste of time and resources that will result in uncertainty, delay, and litigation. Reopening will stall renewable energy projects on public lands and impose major new costs on stakeholders without benefit. Instead, BLM should work proactively with the state, local governments, tribal leadership, and other stakeholders to implement the plan effectively and resolve issues with implementation as they arise.”
Telling the story of birds in Kern County. Audubon California Renewable Energy Director Garry George on Thursday joined colleagues from The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Southern Sierra Partnership to advise the Kern County Planning Commission about how to implement conservation in its upcoming General Plan process. Energy development will certainly be part of that plan, and conservation organizations are eager to ensure that the needs of wildlife and habitat are taken into account.
To the great disappointment of Audubon, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service earlier this month finalized a 30-year permit that will allow private and public developers in the United States, including energy companies, construction projects, and homeowners, to apply for 30-year “incidental-take permits.” These licenses absolve them of a predetermined amount of Bald Eagle deaths every year, and exempt them from being prosecuted under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This amounts to a six-fold increase from the existing permit duration. Species such as the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle are normally protected by federal laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Audubon California Newsletter comes to your inbox monthly with breaking news and important conservation updates from our state.