To help meet our increasing demand for electricity, the 2015 New York State Energy Plan places a priority on increased energy diversity and the use of renewable energy sources, with a goal of 50% of the state’s energy generation coming from carbon-free renewable sources by 2030. While wind energy has significant emissions benefits when compared to energy produced from fossil fuel, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC or Department) must also consider the potential negative environmental impacts of wind energy production when evaluating proposed projects. Currently, the nature and severity of both site-specific and cumulative impacts that commercial wind energy projects may have on birds and bats and their habitats in New York State is DEC’s most pressing issue related to wind energy development. The Department’s concern for and jurisdiction over these natural resources derives from the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) which articulates the policies of the DEC (Article 1), the powers and duties of the Commissioner (Article 3), and the requirements for the protection of fish and wildlife and their habitats (Article 11).
This document sets forth DEC’s guidance for commercial wind energy developers on how to characterize bird and bat resources at on-shore wind energy sites, estimate and document impacts resulting from the construction and operation of wind energy projects, and reduce mortality levels through turbine siting and operational modifications. These guidelines provide a general framework for the developer to propose site-specific studies needed to evaluate the potential and/or actual effects of a given wind energy project, and outline consistent and predictable methodologies, based on the latest scientific knowledge, to assist developers in the planning, development, and monitoring process. It should be recognized that the effort required to fully understand the movement of and impact to birds and bats at any given locale would be monumental and would take many years. Therefore, the studies described here are considered the minimum effort necessary to characterize bird and bat activity at a specific project location within a reasonable time frame relative to construction.
This guidance provides two tracks for pre-construction and post-construction studies: “standard” and “expanded.” It is anticipated that all sites will warrant at least the standard studies. However, where site-specific conditions or other information suggest the potential for substantial adverse impacts to birds and/or bats, or their habitats, expanded studies and/or additional years of study designed to further evaluate the specific concerns may be necessary.
Along with providing essential data for evaluation of project operation, the protocols set forth herein are intended to allow for comparability of data collection among sites and between years such that the information from each site may contribute to a statewide understanding of the ecological effects of wind energy generation. A list of web sites, published papers, and other references and information sources is included at the end of the document.