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Wind and effects on wildlife, prairie chicken image

Wind and Wildlife
Iowa is on its way to ranking among the world's leading producers of wind-generated electrical energy. In our efforts to become less dependent upon fossil fuels, nuclear power, hydropower and other sources with frequent environmental concerns, the possibility of this "green" energy has caused much excitement. Many Iowans eagerly await expansion of this low-cost (after initial infrastructure investments) source of electricity as one step towards energy independence.

The Governor, General Assembly, and Department of Natural Resources all consider wind energy development in Iowa a high priority. With much open farmland upon which wind generators might be placed, and in a region of nation realizing relatively high average wind velocities, Iowa seems destined to be a national focal point for wind energy development. Many state and national conservation organizations also support increasing wind energy production.

No energy source has yet been found to be without some degree of environmental costs, however, and wind energy is no exception. It has been demonstrated that if proper siting of wind turbines is not carefully planned, certain locations may result in collisions with, and death of, both wild birds and bats. In one or two noteworthy instances, excessive mortality of hawks, eagles and other birds of prey has resulted in major modifications to both design and placement of wind turbines, or even periodic shut-downs of large facilities. Additional costs involved with such measures can reduce cost-effectiveness of energy production.

Iowa currently exercises minimal regulation on locating wind farms. Nevertheless, some energy companies recognize the benefits of consulting with wildlife resource managers before final decisions are made on siting of new facilities. Such actions will result in greater trust and cooperation between energy producers and those charged with protecting our wildlife resources This can lead to an orderly and beneficial development of Iowa's wind energy.

An ad hoc Iowa wind energy and wildlife discussion group has met infrequently to review current developments regarding wind energy and wildlife interactions. The group consists of representatives from Iowa DNR's Wildlife Bureau and Energy Section, US Fish & Wildlife Service, several non-governmental conservation organizations, energy companies, the Iowa Renewable Energy Association and other interested parties. The group has no rule-making or regulatory authority; rather it simply works cooperatively to discuss mutual concerns and to learn of the latest developments. A map of sensitive natural resource areas was cooperatively created by the group and is available from Iowa DNR and some other represented organizations, in hopes that it might serve as a helpful reference for wind energy development.

Wind Energy and Wildlife Resource Management in Iowa: Avoiding Potential Conflicts
- Map: Areas of Concern for Wind Farm Sitings

Related Links:
The following websites of other agencies and organizations may be useful in further understanding of potential wind energy and wildlife conflicts, and how to reduce or mitigate threats to wildlife:
http://www.fws.gov/habitatconservation/wind.pdf
http://www.nationalwind.org/publications/siting.htm
http://www.dnr.wi.gov/org/es//science/energy/wind/guidelines.pdf
http://www.aplic.org

For more information, contact Bruce Ehresman, DNR Wildlife Diversity Biologist at bruce.ehresman@dnr.iowa.gov, or Lee Vannoy, DNR Energy Section at Lee.Vannoy@dnr.iowa.gov.


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