Wind Energy Impacts on Wildlife

Contributed Oral Presentations


Contributed paper sessions will be available on-demand for the duration of the conference, then again at the conclusion of the conference.


Assessing Collision Risks at Wind Facilities Using Model-Based Approaches
Greg Forcey; Julia Robinson Willmott
Models are a heuristic tool used to understand how a system works and to predict outputs based on a series of input parameters. Empirical models are built with observational data to understand how the input parameters affect the outputs. Once a model is built, it can often be extrapolated to other areas to be used as a predictive tool using input data to predict outputs that are not known. This approach is in contrast to mechanistic models which are built through a series of mathematical equations used to mimic the details of the actual system. One application of both empirical and mechanistic models is to predict wildlife mortality at wind facilities by predicting collision risk based on preconstruction monitoring data on abundance, behavior, and wind facility characteristics. Collision risk model use model inputs including abundance, behavior, wind turbine characteristics, and topography. This presentation will provide an overview and comparison of collision risk models used to study wind-wildlife impacts, compare select collision risk models, and provide recommendations on selecting a collision risk model based on the species of concern and wind facility specifications. Information gleaned from the collision risk modeling process can inform and guide decision making to reduce bird and bat collision impacts.
Effects of Wind Energy Development on Pronghorn Habitat Selection
Megan C. Milligan; Aaron N. Johnston; Jeffrey L. Beck; Kurt T. Smith; Kaitlyn L. Taylor; Embere Hall; Lee Knox; Teal Cufaude; Cody Wallace; Geneva Chong; Matthew J. Kauffman
In the face of climate change, wind energy represents an important alternative to high and increasing energy demands, but it has been criticized for disrupting wildlife populations. While bird and bat fatalities due to collisions are the most visible and measurable negative impact of wind energy development, little is known about the effects on other terrestrial species, including large ungulates. Behavioral adjustments, such as altered habitat selection, are a primary way that long-lived species cope with novel disturbances. We evaluated effects of wind energy development on pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) space use and habitat selection. Using data from GPS-collared female pronghorn in the Shirley Basin of south-central Wyoming, USA, we tested four hypothetical effects of wind turbines on pronghorn summer and winter space use: 1) displacement away from wind turbines, 2) expansion of home ranges, 3) avoidance behavior within home ranges, or 4) sustained avoidance behavior within home ranges. We monitored 156 individuals over 4 summers (2010, 2011, 2018 and 2019) and 225 individuals over 5 winters (2010, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2018/19 and 2019/20) and used resource selection functions to evaluate selection relative to turbines after controlling for other habitat factors, such as snow depth. We found that in most years pronghorn were not displaced after turbine construction and that turbines were not related to an expansion of home ranges, although the effect of turbines on both habitat selection and size of winter home ranges varied by year. Within home ranges, we found that some pronghorn avoided wind turbines whereas others selected habitat closer to turbines, and selection for both turbines and other habitat variables was highly variable, which translated to no population-level patterns in either season. Highly variable habitat selection and movement of pronghorn, both among individuals and across years, may make effects of wind-energy development difficult to detect.
A Summary of Midwest Bird Fatalities from Operational Wind Energy Facilities
Julia Wilson; Chris Fritchman; Fawn Hornsby
Wind energy continues to be an important and growing sector of the North American renewable energy market, particularly in the Midwest and Ontario. These regions also contain important migration corridors and habitat features used by large numbers of waterfowl, passerines, shorebirds, and waterbirds. To better understand the impacts of wind energy development on avian species, we reviewed publicly available data from post-construction monitoring studies across the Midwest and Canada and extrapolated avian fatality rates across small birds (perching birds [Passeriformes], cuckoos [Cuculiformes], kingfishers [Coraciiformes], woodpeckers [Piciformes]), large birds (waterfowl [Anseriformes, Gaviiformes, and Podicipediformes], waterbirds [Pelecaniformes and Gruiformes], shorebirds [Charadriiformes]), and diurnal raptors (Falconiformes, Accipitriformes, and Cathartiformes) that were found near operational wind turbines. In particular, fatality data from wind facilities located in known migratory corridors or near stopover sites were examined, as many of these studies occurred at facilities in close proximity to shorelines of the Great Lakes and within the Mississippi Flyway. Wind facilities located in known migratory corridors or near stopover sites do not appear to result in greater avian fatality rates than wind facilities outside these areas. In addition, this review supports the findings of Loss et al (2013) and Erickson et al (2013) that cumulatively, the level of mortality from wind energy is lower than from other anthropogenic sources of mortality.
Renewable Energy Production Impacts a Sensitive Indicator Species Within Sagebrush Ecosystems in Western North America
Brian G. Prochazka; Peter S. Coates; Shawn T. O’Neil; Mark A. Ricca; Michael P. Chenaille; Shawn P. Espinosa
A growing demand for domestically-produced energy coupled with technological advances in renewables has resulted in a widespread expansion of energy infrastructure across sagebrush ecosystems. Understanding mechanistic effects of renewable energy production on wildlife population dynamics is critical for maintaining a balance among competing interests of ecosystem services. To assess these potential conflicts we implemented a novel 2-pronged approach (i.e., analyses of pattern and process) using greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter, sage-grouse), an indicator species for sagebrush ecosystems and driver of land use policies in the American West, and geothermal energy infrastructure as a case study. For pattern, we employed a distance-based before-after-control-impact-paired design (BACIP) to evaluate changes in population rate of change (λ) and lek inactivity rates in relation to two distinct geothermal operations in northern and central Nevada. We found a 24% (5-39%) decease in λ after geothermal installation for leks within 5 km of geothermal infrastructure. We also found a ~730% increase in lek absence rates after geothermal installation for leks within 2km of geothermal infrastructure. For process, we modeled the effect of geothermal energy production on multiple vital rates and found the strongest evidence of impacts to nest survival. Specifically, the strongest predictors of nest survival included a three-way, multiplicative relationship between common raven (Corvus corax) density, topographic impermeability (proxy for noise), and distance to geothermal plant, with potential short- and long-term consequences. Lastly, we integrated results from the population process model into a spatially explicit decision support tool that predicts potential impacts to λ at multiple candidate sites for geothermal development across Nevada (n = 135), while accounting for variation in sage-grouse abundance and space-use (AUI) across the same area. Our findings can help guide future energy development projects with the goal of avoiding or minimizing adverse impacts to local sage-grouse populations.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Detection Dogs in Locating Bat and Bird Fatalities in Soybeans at Wind Farms
Anna Ciecka; Mandy Kauffman; Andrew Tredennick; Rhett Good; Meredith Rodriguez
The accuracy of fatality estimates at wind farms improves when searcher efficiency increases. Intensive fatality monitoring at wind farms using human searchers often requires expensive crop clearing to achieve a high probability of detection. Another way to increase searcher efficiency is through the use of trained detection dogs. To decrease client costs while maintaining an acceptable level of detection, we conducted a small pilot study to determine the effectiveness of a dog-handler team in finding bat and bird fatalities in mature soybeans. A single dog-handler team was evaluated in the pilot study and achieved 50% searcher efficiency. In the fall of 2019, we expanded on the pilot study using five additional dog-handler teams on two wind projects in the Midwest. These dog-handler teams achieved searcher efficiencies of 55-73% in mature soybeans. Several factors can influence the effectiveness of dog-handler teams in dense vegetation, such as weather, degree of vegetation, and carcass condition, but our results suggest that dogs can achieve acceptable levels of detection in mature soybeans while decreasing costs.


Location: Virtual Date: Time: -