Advancing Wildlife Conservation and Renewable Energy: A Synthesis of Energy System Technologies and Identifying Effects on Wildlife

Symposium
ROOM: Room 235 – Mesilla
SESSION NUMBER: 98
 
Wildlife managers and conservationist are at the front lines of reviewing energy industry projects. Although oil and gas projects are common-place and impacts are better understood, the impacts of the many facets of renewable energy from biofuels to utility scale wind and solar projects are relatively unknown. Wildlife professionals may be exposed to one type of renewable energy, but lack experience in many of the other types. While knowledge concerning the impacts of renewable energy projects on wildlife has increased, and design and mitigation protocols have been developed, such impacts and interactions remain a considerable source of uncertainty for biologists and industry experts. This symposium will include a panel discussion and assemble experts in various renewable energy fields and describe the pros and cons of each one. TWS wildlife professionals presenting at this symposium are either wildlife regulators or chapter authors of an upcoming book supported through a partnership between TWS/Johns Hopkins Press that is a first of its kind synthesis of the renewable energy industry and effects these types of projects have on wildlife.

1:10PM Advancing Wildlife Conservation and Renewable Energy
  Steve Grodsky
With the global human population projected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, there is a burgeoning demand for energy to produce food, generate electricity, fuel automobiles, and support daily human lives. Yet, the fossil fuels that provide so much (~93%) of the world’s energy are finite, and burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Hence, there is growing interest in the use of renewable sources of energy such as wind, biomass, and solar, which can be replenished naturally on short time scales and may reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although renewable energy often is termed “green energy”, its production is not free from effects on wildlife. The expanding demand for renewable energy and the associated advances in technology generate environmental impacts that often are novel and understudied. At the same time, sociopolitical forces direct rapid changes in energy policy that often call for sustainability measures, including wildlife conservation. Further, public discourse about the pros and cons of various renewable energy technologies often hinges on debates about effects on wildlife. It is critical that these conversations be directed by current and science-based information related to the effects of renewable energy on wildlife. Additionally, mitigation measures to prevent or minimize negative effects on wildlife behavior, demographics, and habitat are critically important to conservation efforts. Therefore, there is great need to synthesize the extensive and rapidly growing base of scientific literature on the subject and discuss the interface between renewable energy development and wildlife conservation among wildlife ecologists, policy-makers, and environmental non-governmental organizations. Our talk will introduce the renewable energy-wildlife conservation nexus and set the stage for subsequent presentations that will detail interactions between wildlife and specific renewable energy technologies.
1:30PM TBA
  Davia Palmeri
1:50PM Solar Energy: A Technology with Multi-Scale Opportunities to Integrate Wildlife Conservation
  Brian B. Boroski
In 2016 for the first time in the United States solar energy represented the largest new source of electricity generating capacity, exceeding both natural gas and wind. As impressive as the growth in the United States is, the United States ranked fourth in 2015 behind China, Germany, and Japan in terms of solar photovoltaic capacity and additions. Thus nationally and worldwide, the influence of utility-scale (i.e., ≥1 MW) solar energy development on wildlife and their habitats is extensive, requires large quantities of space and land, and is expected to expand rapidly with the strong international consensus to transition away from fossil fuels. Consequently, understanding the interface between utility-scale solar energy development and wildlife conservation is increasingly important as utility-scale solar facilities continue to expand worldwide. There are two basic types of solar energy technologies deployed at utility scale: photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP). While many of the topics discussed in this presentation pertain to both PV and CSP systems, the primary focus relates to the installation and operation of utility-scale PV systems because of the dominant, world-wide influence of the technology. Construction and operation of solar energy facilities modifies wildlife habitat and can have a variety of direct and indirect effects on wildlife. Construction and operation of solar facilities may have positive or negative effects on landscape connectivity depending on the site selected for development, operation and maintenance activities during the life of the project, and policy decisions regarding the long-term use of the property. This presentation describes key aspects related to siting, constructing, and operating utility-scale solar energy facilities to meet both renewable energy and wildlife conservation goals, and suggests multi-scale measures to enhance positive effects and mitigate potential negative effects on wildlife.
2:10PM Wind Energy: Effects on Birds
  David Drake
Wind energy in the United States and globally has increased dramatically in recent years, with most of the installed capacity being constructed on land. Although wind energy is touted as environmentally friendly relative to fossil fuels, concerns linger over impacts to flying wildlife. Impacts to birds occur in two primary ways; direct and indirect. Direct impacts focus on avian mortality due to collision with turbine blades or turbine infrastructure. Most avian mortality in North America and Europe consists of passerines. Indirect impacts are not as well understood or researched as direct impacts, but include negative consequences to avian species due to habitat destruction/fragmentation during the construction and operation of wind facilities, and post-construction displacement or avoidance in areas containing wind turbines. Off-shore wind energy facilities are not as common as on-shore facilities, so most of the known information about avian impacts relates to on-shore facilities. The objective of this presentation is to provide an overview of the most current information regarding on- and off-shore wind energy impacts to avian species, as well as efforts to mitigate direct and indirect impacts. The presentation will conclude by recommending future directions of research to fill data gaps.
2:30PM Wind Energy: Effects on Bats
  Amanda M. Hale; Cris D. Hein
Unlike conventional sources of energy such as oil, gas, and coal, utility-scale wind farms require no fuel, do not consume water, and produce no greenhouse gas emissions or other pollutants during the energy production phase. Wind power currently supplies >5% of the electricity consumed in the U.S., with significant growth expected in the coming years. Although continued expansion of wind power will provide substantial environmental and economic benefits, there are increasing concerns about the unprecedented bat fatalities that largely go unchecked at wind facilities across North America. Recent estimates place the number of fatalities in the several hundreds of thousands on an annual basis, and that number is only projected to rise. As a result, the population-level impacts of wind turbine-caused mortality are of increasing concern. For example, modeling efforts for a wide-spread species, the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), indicate that the population could decline by 90% within 50 years, assuming no growth in installed capacity and no significant implementation of conservation measures. Given the increasing demand for wind energy and increasing evidence that bats are attracted to wind turbines, the need to develop cost-effective and practical impact minimization strategies is urgent. Current strategies include siting restrictions and operational minimization, both of which limit wind power generation. Other potential solutions which do not limit power generation include broadcasting ultrasonic sound from wind turbines or using ultra-violet light to deter bats from approaching and entering the rotor swept zone. Another possible solution is the development of turbine surface materials that reduce the attractiveness of wind turbine towers to bats. In this talk, our goal is to provide a succinct summary of the known impacts on bats, present current and future research priorities, and describe the challenges and opportunities associated with developing and implementing effective solutions.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Effects of Harvesting Forest-Based Biofuels on Wildlife: What Have We Learned?
  Jessica Homyack; Jake Verschuyl
Although forest-based biofuels have long been converted to power for running local manufacturing facilities, changes in renewable energy policies have increased global demand for wood-based energy over the past decade. Further, advancing technologies have improved our ability to quickly regenerate and grow forest to economic maturity, harvest and transport wood products, and to convert woody biomass to power. Forest-based biofuels can be produced from several sources, including gleaning logging residuals from tops, limbs, stumps, and other nonmerchantable materials during a final harvest, whole tree biomass harvesting that targets smaller diameter trees, and thinning of mid-aged forest stands. Sustainability concerns regarding this renewable energy source focus on potential for degrading habitat conditions for wildlife populations. Specifically, removing down wood or trees that would otherwise contribute coarse or fine woody debris, biofuel harvests could reduce or remove integral habitat structures that wildlife use for meeting life history requirements. Here, we update prior meta-analyses that examined wildlife response to woody debris manipulations and forest thinning on wildlife populations with contemporary research. We conducted two analyses that examined experimental effects of down woody debris/snag removals or additions and effects of precommercial, commercial, and fuels treatment thinning on abundance and diversity of wildlife species. Many new publications and effect sizes were available for inclusion in our analyses and allowed for increased sample sizes for previously underrepresented taxa. However, in general, effects of woody debris manipulation and thinning were similar to earlier meta-analyses. The cumulative knowledge from the literature suggests that most taxa have neutral or minimal responses to biofuels treatments, yet effect sizes were biased towards certain taxa (birds, mammals) and geographic regions (Southeastern U.S., Pacific Northwest). These results highlight continuing needs for longer-term manipulative research on several taxa, and provide summary responses for future discussions of environmental sustainability and forest-based biofuels.
3:40PM Perennial Grasses and Agricultural Residue
  Susan P. Rupp
Outdoor recreation is a $646 billion industry and generates 6.1 million (1:20) U.S. jobs, making it a major contributor to the overall economy. Bioenergy producers and industry are faced with the formidable task of increasing bioenergy production in response to increasing energy costs, dependence on foreign oil, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change – all while maintaining a sustainable approach to renewable energy development that minimizes impacts to the environment. Although native, perennial grasses such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) have been espoused as environmentally friendly alternatives to use of corn for bioethanol production, intensively managed monocultures of perennial grasses may offer relatively little in the form of food or cover for many wildlife species. Primary risks to fish, wildlife, and native habitats are land conversion, use of aggressive species that invade/degrade native habitats, reduced plant diversity, improper management, and reduction in water quantity/quality. Feedstock cultivation, management, and harvest techniques may be compatible with biodiversity conservation when proper planning and creative partnerships are formed which, in turn, may alleviate potential future problems for industry and producers trying to meet sustainability goals. This presentation explores biomass and wildlife habitat paradigms, and offers alternatives to achieve sustainability of biodiversity as bioenergy policy and production proceeds. Resources available to biomass industry/producers as well as potential strategies to facilitate communications between wildlife professionals and industry will also be discussed.
4:00PM Waterpower and Wildlife: Hydropower and Marine Hydrokinetic Energy
  Henriette I. Jager; Lindsay M. Wickman
Water plays a central role as a basic need for all forms of life. For this reason, wildlife distributions are concentrated along rivers and coasts. Water provides society with many ecosystem goods & services, not least of which is a cheap source of renewable electricity from rivers and oceans. Hydropower capitalizes on the increased head and storage provided by dams and reservoirs that serve multiple purposes, whereas marine kinetic energy captures the energy of tidal rivers, waves, tides, and ocean currents. Much research into the effects of conventional hydropower has focused on fish and aquatic insects, including effects of habitat fragmentation, converting lotic to lentic habitat, changes in flow regimes below dams, and entrainment of fish into turbines. In addition to reviewing these well-studied topics, we also venture into less-well-explored territory to understand how hydropower intersects with other wildlife, including mammals (e.g., bats, beavers, mustelids), birds, and mussels. For marine and coastal energy, impacts on marine mammals and fishes have been primary concerns, and we review risks to wildlife associated with three technologies, tidal barrages, wave power, and tidal-steam turbines. Finally, we highlight research directions and new technologies that promise to provide society with clean water, energy, and climate regulation, as well as habitat for wildlife. At the energy frontier for coastal and marine systems, wave power, tidal-stream turbines, and tidal lagoons show promise for wildlife-friendly operation. In rivers, the frontier in wildlife-friendly power includes dam-free hydropower, options for promoting natural channel-formation processes, and spatial re-design of river basins to maximize provision of a full-spectrum of ecosystem services.
4:20PM Renewable energy policy directives: long-term implications for wildlife conservation
  Edward B. Arnett
Administrative policies and regulatory statutes are major forces in shaping the exploration, development, and production of renewable energy. Policy-driven regulations, targeted production goals, support for technology development, and financial incentives all influence the types and scale of renewable energy production around the world, in turn affecting wildlife populations and habitat globally. Administrative planning processes also influence wildlife, their habitat and mitigation measures to offset unforeseen impacts. Here, I will provide an overview of policies and administrative planning rules and procedures shaping renewable energy production and how those policies broadly affect wildlife and their habitats. Additionally, I will speculate on future policy directions and how wildlife conservation may be better integrated into decisions shaping the future of renewable energy production.

 
Organizers: Tabor Allison, American Wind Wildlife Institute, Marshfield, VT; Timothy M. Green, Brookhaven National Lab, Upton, NY; Jerry A. Roppe, Avangrid Renewables, Portland, OR; Susan Rupp, Enviroscapes Ecological Consulting, LLC, Gravette, AR; Thomas Ryon, National Renewable Energy Lab, Golden, CO; Lee Walston, Argonne National Lab, Argonne, IL
 
Supported by: TWS Renewable Energy Working Group

Symposium
Location: Albuquerque Convention Center Date: September 27, 2017 Time: 1:10 pm - 5:00 pm