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Ecology - Science Policy

Development by Design: Mitigating Wind Development's Impacts on Wildlife in Kansas
Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Author: Brian Obermeyer et al.

by Brian Obermeyer, Robert Manes, Joseph Kiesecker, Joseph Fargione, Kei Sochi

Wind energy, if improperly sited, can impact wildlife through direct mortality and habitat loss and fragmentation, in contrast to its environmental benefits in the areas of greenhouse gas, air quality, and water quality. Fortunately, risks to wildlife from wind energy may be alleviated through proper siting and mitigation offsets. Here we identify areas in Kansas where wind development is incompatible with conservation, areas where wind development may proceed but with compensatory mitigation for impacts, and areas where development could proceed without the need for compensatory mitigation. We demonstrate that approximately 10.3 million ha in Kansas (48 percent of the state) has the potential to provide 478 GW of installed capacity while still meeting conservation goals. Of this total, approximately 2.7 million ha would require no compensatory mitigation and could produce up to 125 GW of installed capacity. This is 1,648 percent higher than the level of wind development needed in Kansas by 2030 if the United States is to get 20 percent of its electricity from wind. Projects that avoid and offset impacts consistent with this analysis could be awarded “Green Certification.” Certification may help to expand and sustain the wind industry by facilitating the completion of individual projects sited to avoid sensitive areas and protecting the industry's reputation as an ecologically friendly source of electricity.