OOS 18 - The Ecological Impacts of Wind Energy Development: Balancing Wildlife Conservation and the Need to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Tuesday, August 8, 2017: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
D136, Oregon Convention Center
Cris Hein, Bat Conservation International
Taber Allison, American Wind Wildlife Institute
Taber Allison, American Wind Wildlife Institute
The rapidly warming climate is already causing species to alter their behavior, phenological patterns, and geographic ranges, and solutions to slow or reverse these effects are vital to maintaining viable ecological systems. Renewable energy sources, such as wind energy, can play a role in combating global climate change. Wind-generated electricity consumes no water, generates few emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and displaces energy generated from carbon-based fuels. Yet, generating electricity from wind turbines can have adverse impacts to terrestrial and marine species, including turbine-related injury and fatality, and can result in habitat loss and fragmentation. With wind generating capacity projected to expand from the current 75 gigawatts (GW) to nearly 224 (GW) by 2030, the ecological impacts on wildlife and habitat have many stakeholders concerned. Several species vulnerable to wind turbine-caused fatality are federally- and state-listed species or are protected by other laws, while other potentially vulnerable species are afforded no legal protection. Much of the attention has focused on bird and bat fatalities, and their possible population-level consequences. However, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the impacts related to habitat loss, terrestrial vertebrates, and the marine ecosystem. Moreover, questions remain as to whether we can define an acceptable level of risk given the presumed greater threat of climate change-related impacts on wildlife. These concerns already influence siting and operational decisions, which may affect the overall pace and scale of wind energy’s beneficial role in combating climate change. Thus, a balance must be achieved between wind energy development and wildlife conservation, and strategies to minimize impacts while maximizing energy production are needed. The goal of this symposium is to provide a 360° dialogue regarding this dilemma and the ecological importance of striking this balance. The symposium will include a diverse group of scientists from government agencies, academia, private consulting, and non-governmental organizations who are experts in their respective fields, and are contributing to a possible Issues in Ecology paper on this topic.
1:30 PM
 Wind energy technology: Past, present, and future
Robert Thresher, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
1:50 PM
 Offsets from wind energy in scenarios of energy futures
Jay E. Diffendorfer, United States Geological Survey; Monica A. Dorning, United States Geological Survey
2:30 PM
 Challenges and opportunities of accurately and precisely estimating fatality of birds and bats at wind energy facilities
Cris Hein, Bat Conservation International; Manuela Huso, U.S. Geological Survey
2:50 PM
 The impact of wind energy development on bat populations
Erin F. Baerwald, American Wind Wildlife Institute; Winifred F. Frick, University of California, Santa Cruz; Liam P. McGuire, Texas Tech University; Robert M. R. Barclay, University of Calgary
3:10 PM
3:20 PM
 Bat behavior at wind turbines and impact reduction strategies
Amanda M. Hale, Texas Christian University; Victoria J. Bennett, Texas Christian University
4:00 PM
 Effects of wind energy development on terrestrial wildlife
Chad LeBeau, Western EcoSystems Technology