Learning from real-world experience to understand renewable energy impacts to wildlife

Energy Research ad Development Division Final Research Report CEC-500-2020-012
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The project team sought to use real-world data to understand adverse effects to wildlife of renewable energy production that is critical to meeting California’s climate and clean energy goals. The project had three main components. First, a systematic literature review studied 20 peer-reviewed publications and 612 reports from other nonreviewed sources from 231 wind and solar facilities in North America. Within California, 50 percent of facilities collected pre- and post-construction data, 30 percent had experimental study designs, and fewer than 7 percent estimated detection probability during habitat use surveys. Mitigation at wind power plants focused on repowering to reduce risk to soaring birds and at solar facilities emphasized wildlife deterrence and compensatory mitigation. Second, the authors developed a best-practices approach to employ environmental isotopes (for example, hydrogen obtained from animal tissue) and rescaling functions (a statistical approach to modeling the relationship between variables) to assign individual birds or bats to their place of origin. The team applied this approach to feathers from 411 individuals of 12 species killed at wind facilities and 515 individuals of 19 species killed at solar facilities. From 24 percent to 100 percent (mean +/- SD = 49 percent +/- 33 percent) and 25 percent to 100 percent (73 percent +/- 25 percent) of birds grew feathers at a location outside the collection site at wind and solar facilities, respectively. Third, the authors constructed Bayesian integrated population models (probability models) for 29 focal species affected by wind or solar energy generation in California. Species predominantly local in origin generally had lower population growth rates than did species that were predominantly nonlocal in origin. These patterns illustrate the complex linkages between behavioral ecology, vulnerability to mortality, and population-level impacts to wildlife from fatalities at renewable energy facilities. This project benefits the renewable energy sector by providing a framework and specific tools for understanding environmental impacts of renewable energy generation.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Title Learning from real-world experience to understand renewable energy impacts to wildlife
Series title Energy Research ad Development Division Final Research Report
Series number CEC-500-2020-012
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher California Energy Commission
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description 132 p.
Country United States
State California
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