A Methodology to Assess the National and Regional Impacts of U.S. Wind Energy Development on Birds and Bats

Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5157
By: , and 

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Abstract

This scientific investigations report describes an effort by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that used research, monitoring data, and modeling to develop a methodology to assess both the current and future population-level consequences of wind energy development on species of birds and bats that are present in the United States during any part of their life cycle. The methodology is currently applicable to birds and bats, focuses primarily on the effects of collisions with turbines, and can be applied to any species that breeds in, migrates through, or otherwise uses any part of the United States. The methodology assesses species at the national and regional scales and identifies those species potentially in need of more detailed study, as well as those species that are likely at low risk from wind energy development. This approach is fundamentally different from existing methods focusing on impacts at individual facilities.

This report supersedes USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5066 by the same authors, which described a preliminary version of the methodology. Following reviews of the preliminary methodology by a panel of external experts, public comments, and additional internal review, the methodology was revised and finalized.

The three components of the refined methodology described in this new report rely on publicly available fatality information, population estimates, species range maps, turbine location data, biological characteristics of species, and population models. First, three metrics are combined to determine direct and indirect relative effects from wind energy facilities to generate a list of species scores. Second, a generic population model estimates the expected change in population trend caused by the additive mortality from collisions with wind turbines. Third, the methodology combines an estimate of observed fatalities and an estimate of potential biological removal to assess the possibility of a decrease in population size. The latter two components are quantitative. In a test case, the methodology was used to analyze data for six bird species and three bat species.

Components of the methodology are based on simplifying assumptions and require information that, for many species, may be sparse or unreliable or may require further study. These assumptions should be carefully considered when using outputs from the methodology. Increases in the quality of data for fatalities from collisions with wind turbines, species distributions, abundance, and demography will likely improve results for uses of the methodology.

The methodology’s design identifies and prioritizes a subset of the bird and bat species that may experience population-level impacts from collisions with wind turbines, both currently and from future wind energy development in the United States. Results of an assessment using this methodology could focus future research to improve our understanding of those impacts and to guide avoidance and minimization strategies. In addition, this methodology can be used to identify species for more intensive demographic modeling or to highlight those species that may not require any additional research because effects of wind energy development on their populations are projected to be small. The effects of wind energy facilities on nine unidentified species used in the test case described in this report have not been assessed. Their data were simply used to show the application of the methodology to real-world data and the types of outputs it would produce.

Suggested Citation

Diffendorfer, J.E., Beston, J.A., Merrill, M.D., Stanton, J.C., Corum, M.D., Loss, S.R., Thogmartin, W.E., Johnson, D.H., Erickson, R.A., and Heist, K.W., 2019, A methodology to assess the national and regional impacts of U.S. wind energy development on birds and bats: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5157, 45 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20185157. [Supersedes USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5066.]

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • 1.0 Introduction
  • 2.0 Methodology
  • 3.0 Overall Methodology Development and Validation
  • 4.0 Test Case
  • 5.0 Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Glossary
  • Appendix 1. Alternative Modeling Approaches Considered
  • Appendix 2. Future Projections

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title A Methodology to Assess the National and Regional Impacts of U.S. Wind Energy Development on Birds and Bats
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2018-5157
DOI 10.3133/sir20185157
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Eastern Energy Resources Science Center
Description ix, 45 p.
Public Comments Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5157 supersedes Scientific Investigations Report 2015-5066.
Online Only (Y/N) Y