Wind is the USA's most rapidly growing renewable energy source, and is an important component of strategies to reduce dependence on fossil fuels (USGAO, 2005). In the central Appalachians, utility-scale wind energy companies are targeting higher elevation plateaus and ridge-tops for development. It has been estimated that Pennsylvania alone has 5400 MW of developable wind power capacity, which corresponds to several thousand turbines (PEDA, 2006). Some of these areas, and in particular the ridges of Pennsylvania, are well-known for their concentrations of migrating raptors, including several species of special concern.
Currently, there is little available information to identify how wind energy projects in the central Appalachians area will affect bird populations (NRC, 2007). However, it is known that diurnal raptors are generally at higher risk for collision with turbines than are many other avian species of birds (NWCC, 2004). Furthermore, the potential cumulative impacts are broader than just those from direct collisions and include avoidance of preferred or physiologically beneficial migration paths, and alteration or destruction of habitat. In spite of the variety of potentially significant environmental impacts, the effects on birds and other wildlife of thousands of turbines along Appalachian ridge-tops have not been well studied. These environmental impacts need to be investigated and quantified at both the site and regional scales so that well-informed decisions can be made about where bird-friendly utility-scale wind energy facilities can be constructed.