Growing demands for clean energy options, such as wind power, have increased the need to address issues (real and perceived) associated with impacts of wind development on wildlife and habitat. While there are research activities at prospective and developed sites across the country focused on specific research questions, there is not a coordinated national research strategy program in the United States. Since its inception, the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC) Wildlife Workgroup (WLWG) has tracked both domestic and international wind/wildlife interaction research and monitoring studies. Since 1994, WLWG has hosted six National Wildlife Research Meetings at which project results (including research and monitoring studies) were presented. During these meetings, additional research needs were discussed and identified, and some have been pursued. Proceedings from all these workshops are available on the NWCC website, https://www.nationalwind.org/.
In 2006, the WLWG prepared a draft list of research priorities, based on survey results and a prioritization meeting held in June 2006. The WLWG chose to postpone further prioritization work until a number of other scientific and technical institutions completed their own lists of research priorities. In Fall 2007, the WLWG resumed work on the research priorities task. This draft summarizes key topics and suggested research proposed by the NWCC and the following institutions and their products:
- The Wildlife Society, in Impacts of Wind Energy Facilities on Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat (October 2007), summarizes wind energy impacts to wildlife and habitat, provides information on permitting processes, and discusses challenges associated with current research, predictive models, and monitoring methods. References to this report within the following document appear as "TWS".
- The National Academy of Sciences covers what is known - and suggests methods for determining what is unknown - about the impacts of wind development in the mid-Atlantic region to the environment and wildlife in Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects (April 2007). References to this report within the following document appear as "NAS".
- California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research - Environmental Area (PIER-EA) program developed a list (January 2007) of "Research needs to support avian/bat assessments and mitigation at wind facilities in California". References to this report within the following document appear as "CEC PIER-?EA".
- In January 2007, the NWCC surveyed WLWG members representing conservation and wildlife NGOs, state agencies, consulting firms, and industry about perceived research priorities about methods and processes currently in use. References to this report within the following document appear as "NWCC".
- In 2006, the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) convened a wind and wildlife workshop discussing priority research needs. References to the summary of research topics resulting from the workshop appear within the following document as "NYSERDA".
- This report incorporates additional resources articulating research needs regarding habitat issues not addressed by the above institutions. Comparatively little information about wind energy's potential impacts to wildlife habitat exists; this document references one study on wind energy's impacts to grassland species and infers research needs from other studies examining potential and observed wildlife habitat impacts from other forms of energy development.
Though the purposes and approaches of these documents vary, there is a notable similarity between them in terms of the research priorities. While each document should be consulted for further clarity and detail, this white paper synthesizes the papers in order to provide a broader perspective of the current research needs.
Research priorities are grouped below under several headings but do not reflect any overall ranking of importance or degree of urgency. The description of each need is quoted directly, where practical, from one of the referenced sources.