Responsible siting of wind projects requires an understanding of interactions with permitting agencies, the public, wildlife, and surrounding land uses during each stage of a project's development and operation. The recent growth of the wind industry highlights the need for continued understanding of all siting-related issues and current research.
Wind Turbine Sound and Human Health
Wind power is a clean energy source that can provide communities with decreased greenhouse gas emissions, along with air quality improvements and corresponding human health benefits. For more information, please see AWEA's Wind Turbines and Health and Utility Scale Wind Energy and Sound fact sheets.
In 2009, AWEA and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), established a multidisciplinary scientific advisory panel comprising medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals to conduct a review of current literature available on the issue of perceived health effects of wind turbines. The panel's white paper, Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects: An Expert Panel Review (full report here, executive summary here), was released in December 2009. Following review of current literature, the advisory panel concluded that there is no evidence the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects on humans.
Wind Energy and Wildlife
Expanding the use of wind power is compatible with, and has minimal impacts on, wildlife or their habitats because wind power has none of the harmful emissions, water use, mining, drilling and hazardous waste of other energy sources. Even so, AWEA and the wind power industry are committed to reducing the environmental impacts associated with wind projects. The wind industry has taken a systematic approach to identify potential impacts on birds, bats and other wildlife, and is proactively engaged in initiatives aimed at reducing, if not eliminating, those impacts. These efforts are described in AWEA's Wind Energy and Wildlife fact sheet.
AWEA Siting Handbook
The Wind Energy Siting Handbook was developed by the AWEA Siting Committee to inform wind energy developers and other interested parties about environmental siting issues relevant to land-based commercial-scale wind energy project development in the United States. The handbook is designed to inform wind energy developers and other interested parties about environmental siting issues relevant to land-based commercial-scale wind energy project development in the United States.
Federal Siting Policies
The wind industry seeks prudent and reasonable policies and regulations that allow the industry to grow sustainably. Given the known benefits of wind energy development, the wind industry's impacts should be considered in context with other forms of energy production and treated accordingly during the policy-making process.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), as part of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), has oversight of regulations governing the development of renewable energy projects on public lands, but their policies and regulations can also have direct impacts on development of private lands. While the FWS' mission is to protect wildlife and their habitats, DOI has multiple missions, one of which is to promote renewable energy development on public lands.
Over the course of five years, the wind energy industry, wildlife conservation organizations, Native American tribes, and federal and state regulators worked to develop voluntary land-based Wind Energy Guidelines to ensure that wind farms minimize impacts on wildlife. The final version of these guidelines was published in March 2012. By supporting and using the guidelines, the wind energy industry is voluntarily agreeing to be held to a higher standard for wildlife protection than any other industry in the country, and even beyond what is required by federal law. AWEA, along with 40 individual member companies, including project developers, utilities, and turbine manufacturers signed a letter to the FWS, showing the collective commitment to a process that represents a reasonable balance between the need to deploy wind energy and addressing the relatively modest impacts associated with development and operation of wind facilities.
The FWS continues to work on developing a final Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance that is intended to facilitate the issuance of eagle take permits under the 2009 Eagle Permit Rule. The initial Draft Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance was released by FWS on February 8, 2011. AWEA and its member companies submitted extensive comments recommending changes, viewed as critically needed to have a workable permit program from the Industry perspective, to the Guidance document and permitting process on May 19, 2011. At present the FWS is in the process of finalizing the second draft of the Guidance, however, it is unclear as to when the document will be publicly released, or if FWS will be seeking comments for additional revisions or issuing the document as final. Most recent communications from FWS indicate that August 2012 is a target date for availability of the next draft. Once the next version is released AWEA staff will work with the Siting Committee to analyze the document and identify any issues that need further attention.
Bureau of Land Management
Wind energy projects proposed for land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must follow BLM siting policies. BLM maintains a wind energy policy web site, and has developed a number of documents related to wind energy, including a Wind Energy Development Policy Instruction Memorandum, a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), and a Record of Decision to Implement a Wind Energy Development Program.
U.S. Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) can allow wind energy projects on Forest Service-managed lands through special use permits. On September 24, 2007, USFS released draft directives to guide wind development. AWEA provided extensive comments on the draft directives in January 2008.
Federal Aviation Administration
Depending on location, wind turbines may interfere with some types of civilian and military radar, causing "clutter" or other interference. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has legal jurisdiction over structures 200 feet tall and above. As utility scale turbines are 400 feet tall, or more, developers must submit an application to the FAA for each turbine for a hazard determination prior to construction. Other federal agencies with radar assets, such as the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are notified of proposed projects through the FAA process and have the opportunity to raise objections with the FAA on which a presumed hazard determination may be based. The wind industry strongly supports responsible, effective actions designed to identify and address any potential conflicts with airspace and radar due to proposed wind farms. More information is available in AWEA's Airspace, Radar and Wind Energy fact sheet.