A Much Welcomed Boost in Wind Wildlife Research Funds

The President's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for the Department of Energy's Wind Energy Program includes $12.4 million to "improve the understanding of risks to sensitive wildlife species and develop technologies that can mitigate those risks." This is an important acknowledgement of the nexus between wildlife issues and wind energy development. Congress should support it and the Department of Energy should invest in this work regardless of what comes back from Congress.

Wind power is currently supplying 4.5% of our nation's energy mix. This is a huge step towards addressing the increasing perils of climate change, and we need wind power to keep growing rapidly. As wind energy has grown, though, so has attention on the industry's impacts to wildlife and particularly avian and bat species. Regrettably, there are not enough answers for alleviating impacts to particular at-risk species once turbines are up and running and we need a much better understanding regarding overall scope and scale of the impact.

Science-based solutions are the only way to get ahead of this issue. In order to keep the momentum for rapidly scaling wind energy while protecting important wildlife resources, we must address critical research gaps in wind-wildlife interactions. And both wind industry representatives and conservation organizations wholeheartedly agree on this need.

Last fall, NRDC's Executive Director Peter Lehner, joined leaders from 22 wind energy companies and utilities and 9 national conservation and science-based organizations in writing to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The joint letter commended the Administration's ambitious clean energy agenda and highlighted the urgent need for applied research on interactions between wind energy and species of concern - such as eagles, bats, lesser prairie-chicken and greater sage-grouse - as well as technological solutions to minimize and mitigate impacts.

Thankfully, President Obama and Secretary Moniz have recognized this critical need. The President's Budget Request includes $145.5 million for the Department of Energy's Wind Program, which incorporates:

A new $4.5 million research initiative focused on "Eagle Impact Mitigation Technologies research [to] support [research and development], and field-testing and validation of technologies to reduce the potential impacts of wind energy facilities," andAn additional $5 million to expand the program's work to "better understand and develop mitigation measures to address the impacts of wind on bird and bats to help enable the effective coexistence of sensitive wildlife with expanded wind deployment."

This research funding is a welcomed acknowledgement of a shared vision for environmentally responsible wind energy development. We applaud the Administration's efforts as well as those organizations dedicated to addressing these issues.