Wind Power Guidelines Balance Energy, Environment

Attempting to steer a narrow path that allows for resource development while protecting the environment, the Obama administration has drafted new guidelines that it said “provide clarity and guidance” on new renewable energy projects on public lands, with a particular focus on wind power.

The guidelines come in two documents released by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – Draft Voluntary, Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines, and Draft Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance – which the administration said would “provide agency employees, developers, federal agencies, and state organizations the information they need to make the best possible decisions in reviewing and selecting sites for utility-scale and community-scale wind energy facilities to avoid and minimize negative impacts to fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats.

wind power development

image via GE

The draft documents are available online now through the FWS, and once published in the Federal Register will be available for 90 for public comment. In releasing the proposals, the Department of the Interior (DOI) noted that last year it gave the go-ahead to 12 renewable energy projects on public lands, including nine utility-scale solar power projects. The DOI said those projects combined have an energy-producing capacity of nearly 4,000 megawatts.

While the FWS guidelines are voluntary and aimed at everyone from local governments to developers, the department also issued a set of wind-power memoranda specifically for its own managers in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), covering: National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Utility-Scale Renewable Energy Right-of-Way Authorizations); Solar and Wind Energy Applications: Due Diligence; and Solar and Wind Energy Applications: Pre-Application Screening.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.