Energy infrastructure is widespread worldwide. Renewable energy technologies, which are expanding their footprint on the landscape and their contribution to energy availability, represent a different kind of infrastructure from extractive energy technologies. Although renewable energy sources may offer a ‘greener alternative' to traditional extractive energy sources, mounting evidence suggests that renewable energy infrastructure, and the transmission lines needed to convey energy from renewable energy facilities to users, may impact birds. Peer-reviewed literature historically has focused on the direct effects of electrocution and, to a lesser extent, collisions with overhead power systems, and on avian collisions at wind energy facilities, with less consideration of indirect effects or other energy sectors. Here, we review studies that have examined direct and indirect effects on birds at utility-scale onshore wind- and solar-energy facilities, including their associated transmission lines. Although both direct and indirect effects appear site-, species-, and infrastructure-specific, generalities across energy sectors are apparent. For example, large-bodied species with high wing loading and relatively low maneuverability appear to be especially susceptible to direct effects of tall structures, and the risk of collision is likely greater when structures are placed perpendicular to flight paths or in areas of high use. Given that all infrastructure types result in direct loss or fragmentation of habitat and may affect the distribution of predators, indirect effects mediated by these mechanisms may be pervasive across energy facilities. When considered together, the direct and indirect effects of renewable energy facilities, and the transmission lines serving these facilities, are likely cumulative. Ultimately, cross-facility and cross-taxon meta-analyses will be necessary to fully understand the cumulative impacts of energy infrastructure on birds. Siting these facilities in a way that minimizes avian impacts will require an expanded understanding of how birds perceive facilities and the mechanisms underlying direct and indirect effects.
Avian interactions with renewable energy infrastructure: An update
Title: Avian interactions with renewable energy infrastructure: An update
April 20, 2016
Journal: The Condor: Ornithological Applications
Publisher: American Ornithological Society
Smith, J.; Dwyer, J. (2016). Avian interactions with renewable energy infrastructure: An update. The Condor: Ornithological Applications, 118(2), 411-423.