The New York State Ornithological Assoc., Inc. (NYSOA) supports
development of renewable resources to provide energy in NY State,
and beyond. Continued dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear
power carries with it serious environmental consequences including
air and water pollution, toxic waste, habitat degradation and loss,
and many threats associated with global warming. These negative
consequences impact birds in NY and elsewhere. Wind energy facilities
that are sited appropriately provide an alternative that is less
harmful than fossil fuel and nuclear generation to birds, humans
and our environment.
However, all methods of energy production, even those using renewable
resources, do have some environmental impacts. The greatest
concern to NYSOA for wind power is inappropriate siting and the
consequent impact from wind turbine blades and towers on wildlife
and the potential degradation or fragmentation of habitats by access
roads and the towers themselves.
NYSOA recognizes that the cumulative impact of more than one wind
power facility in one area poses an environmental threat that may
far exceed the impact of an individual facility and that the cumulative
impact of a series of wind power facilities along a topographic
feature that is used as a migratory route may be severe. NYSOA
sees a great need for predictive models of wildlife mortality and
development of objective criteria that apply predictions from such
models to determine if a site is suitable or not. NYSOA recommends
that wildlife monitoring data be subject to external review by
scientists unassociated with the wind industry, and that the data
be placed in the public domain before a siting review is initiated
so citizen participation in the review process is reasonably possible.
To minimize damage to wildlife and address these broad concerns,
NYSOA recommends the following.
- A full, draft assessment of the impact on wildlife, including
especially birds and bats must be prepared and submitted by the
proposer for review by the appropriate agencies.
- The full, draft assessment must provide an analysis of the
cumulative environmental impact due to existing, proposed and
reasonably foreseeable energy-related proposals for an area or
- The review agency must be given the authority to reject an
individual proposal if the cumulative effects of several facilities
in an ecologically connected area are viewed as too severe.
- The assessment should determine the presence or absence of
state or federally listed threatened or endangered species or
species of special conservation concern that reside at or near
the site for an appreciable portion of the year and determine
how those species would be affected by the proposed project.
- The assessment must include thorough surveys of nesting birds,
with particular emphasis on at risk species, and those species
utilizing flight displays and patterns that may increase the
likelihood of collisions. Surveys of wintering birds must be
conducted to assess use of the area by raptors, which may hunt
in open areas near wind turbines.
- Ridges and shorelines, which are closely followed by some species
during migration, are frequently also considered for wind power
development. The risks to birds from wind projects
at these locations are so high that they should be avoided completely
unless it is demonstrated conclusively that minimal concentration
of birds exists at proposed sites. In those locations where
there is good reason to suspect there may be a seasonal concentrations
of birds, no less than three years of full-time surveys through
spring and fall migrations, with appropriate peer review, should
be considered adequate to document the absence or low frequency
of such concentrations. These locations include: areas
within 2 miles of the shorelines of Lakes Erie, Ontario, Champlain,
and Chautauqua; barrier beaches and other shoreline areas on
Long Island; offshore areas within 2 miles of land in Long Island
Sound and the Atlantic Ocean; known migratory routes along ridges
and valleys including the lower Hudson River Valley, the Susquehanna
River Valley, the St. Lawrence River Valley, the Finger Lakes,
Chautauqua Lake, and the Shawangunk Ridge. Other areas
may also be identified as similarly crucial to bird movement,
and should likewise be avoided.
- The agency must have the authority to reject the assessment
on the basis of insufficient or inadequate data.
- The draft, full assessment should be provided to the public
in such a time and manner that the public has sufficient time
to submit an external review to the appropriate agency or agencies
prior to the approval by the agency.
- At a minimum, any project's approval should be contingent on
the developer and operator following the most current version
of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recommendations for reducing
risk and avoiding bird collisions with towers.
- The agency must certify that the data is sufficient and collected
in an appropriate manner.
- Post-construction studies of aerial movement of wildlife and
mortality rates must be continued and the results readily accessible
in the public domain. Approved wind power facilities must provide
financial support sufficient to fund several efforts to develop
predictive models of mortality using the collective data from
all wind power sites.
(See also addendums on Regulatory Review Status
CURRENT STATUS OF REGULATORY REVIEW OF WIND PROJECTS IN NEW YORK
there is no state oversight or review of wind projects in New York. Review
of individual projects falls to local municipalities, generally
town boards and/or town planning boards.
Most localities do not have specific procedures for considering
wind projects, and typically they fall under general site plan
reviews. Most projects are of sufficient size and impact
that they require review under the State Environmental Quality
Review Act (SEQR). Generally a town entity serves as lead
agency in this review. As part of the SEQR review, the NY
State Department of Environmental Conservation and/or the Fish
and Wildlife Service are often asked to comment. However,
DEC has no formal policy on wind projects, and little regulatory
control over them. In addition, they have limited staff to
deal with these issues, and their involvement is uneven.
number of towns have enacted wind power ordinances, often in response
to a project being proposed. These laws establish criteria
for wind turbines, such as: setbacks from property lines
and residences; noise levels; construction standards; decommissioning
procedures; requirements for pre-construction, and possibly post-construction
studies; among others. Some local regulations may be pre-empted
by state or federal statutes. In addition, towns often negotiate
a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the wind developer.
wind projects are considered and reviewed individually, there is
little or no consideration of the cumulative impacts of projects
on a regional or statewide basis. Nor is there any statewide
assessment of preferred locations for wind projects based on wind
resources, electricity demand, social considerations, and other
factors. In addition, there is no means to judge the relative
environmental impacts of projects since individual municipalities
review these impacts. Often factors such as local public
opinion or increased revenue to the town carry greater weight than
the NY State Legislature is considering reauthorization of a lapsed
law regulating siting of electricity generating facilities such
as coal and gas-fired plants. Legislation has been proposed
to also regulate larger wind projects under this law, which would
allow a broader view of proposals and bring more uniform standards
to evaluating projects. However, it would also likely limit,
but not eliminate, local control over wind projects. Ideally,
such a law would provide for professional analyses and cumulative
assessment, as well as funding for intervenors in the review process. The
status and likelihood of passage of this legislation is uncertain
at this time.
A Partial Bibliography of Wind Power and Its Environmental Effects
American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security. 2006.
www.worldwatch.org/node/4405 - 15k
and trends, New York State energy profiles: 1991-2005. New
York State Energy Resource Development. www.nyserda.org/Energy_Information/energy_facts.asp
Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects. 2007. National Research
Wind Power Impacts on Wildlife and Government Responsibilities
for Regulating Development and Protecting Wildlife. 2005. United
States Government Accountability Office Report to Congressional
Barclay, R. M. R., E. F. Barewald, and J. C. Gruver. 2007. Variation
in bat and bird fatalities at wind energy facilities: assessing
the effects of rotor size and tower height. Canadian Journal of
Report for the Maple Ridge Wind Power Project: Post-construction
bird and bat mortality study – 2006. www.wind-watch.org/documents/wp-content/uploads/maple_ridge_report_2006_final.pdf