This special interest group is for professionals to connect and discuss all types of carbon-free power alternatives, including nuclear, renewable, tidal and more.

WARNING: SIGN-IN

You need to be a member of Energy Central to access some features and content. Please or register to continue.

Post

New “Site Wind Right” Energy Map Released for Central U.S.

image credit: The Nature Conservancy

July 7, 2020 (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) — Today The Nature Conservancy publicly released a first-of-its-kind analysis identifying the most promising places in the Central U.S. to develop wind energy that avoid conflicts with habitats and wildlife. The associated map, called Site Wind Right, is available online for power purchasers, utilities, companies, state agencies, and municipalities to help build new wind projects faster, at lower cost.  

 

The Central U.S. is known as the “wind-belt,” where nearly 80% of the country’s current and planned wind energy capacity exists. Conservancy scientists evaluated more than one hundred sources of data on wind, land use, and wildlife across these 17 states to detect places where conflicts between wind energy and wildlife are likely to be minimal. The results were both enlightening and encouraging.  

 

“We are thrilled to discover we could generate more than 1,000 GW of wind power in the Central U.S., solely from new projects sited away from important wildlife areas,” said Mike Fuhr, Director of The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma. “That’s a lot of potential energy – comparable to total U.S. electric generation from all sources today. While advancements in transmission and storage will be needed to fully realize this wind energy potential, it proves we can have both clean power and the lands and wildlife we love. It’s a win-win.” 

 

Wind projects sited in the wrong place can threaten some of our most treasured landscapes and wildlife. The Nature Conservancy estimates that renewable energy development could affect 76 million acres of land in the United States— an area about the size of Arizona. The good news is this study shows we can do it in a way that is good for nature and communities. 

 

Ford Drummond, a third-generation rancher in the Osage Hills of Oklahoma, has strong feelings about the dozens of large wind turbines installed adjacent to his ranch. The Osage Hills hold some of the nation’s last stands of native tallgrass prairie, where bison, bald eagles, and the once-common Greater prairie chicken still live. Poorly sited wind pose known threats to the wildlife that depend on this endangered and beautiful landscape. 

 

“I am a strong supporter of Site Wind Right,” Drummond shares. “It helps us be better stewards of the land by protecting wildlife and the iconic landscapes of the Great Plains, while also allowing us to move toward a cleaner energy future.”   

 

Drummond recognizes if Site Wind Right had been available when the turbines were planned, “We likely would have had a different outcome here.” 

 
To meet the climate challenge, we need a rapid buildout of renewable energy.  Projects sited in places that can impact sensitive wildlife and habitats are more likely to stall, drive up prices, and even lead to project cancellation. This puts power purchasers, such as companies or universities, at greater risk of negative publicity and missing their climate goals 

 

Site Wind Right can help developers, power purchasers, and communities develop wind energy away from areas that may impact important habitats and sensitive wildlife. The potential of Site Wind Right to “de-risk” wind development has spurred the early endorsement of Evergy, a Midwest energy provider in Kansas and Missouri.   
 

Site Wind Right is an invaluable resource that helps us avoid unnecessary impacts to the wildlife and iconic landscapes of the Great Plains, while also allowing us to provide clean, low-carbon energy for our customers,” said Terry Bassham, CEO for Evergy 

 

The study has also brought accolades from another early reviewer, the national Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which awarded Site Wind Right their “Natural Resources” award and the endorsement from conservation groups, including the National Wildlife Federation and Natural Resources Defense Council.  

 

“We need more resources like this to speed-up our move away from burning fossil fuels. Well sited wind energy allows us to meet our climate goals, advances conservation, and ensures that we avoid irreversible environmental impacts,” said Katie Umekubo, a senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). 

 

The Nature Conservancy is now looking to broaden the reach of Site Wind Right with communities, companies, and government agencies to apply this strategy so we can rapidly get the blades turning on clean and green energy in the Midwest.  
 

“The Nature Conservancy supports the rapid acceleration of renewable energy development in the United States to help reduce carbon pollution,” said Fuhr. “We are looking forward to providing Site Wind Right to the people making important decisions about our nation’s clean energy future.” 

 

Jon Schwedler's picture

Thank Jon for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.

Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 9, 2020 12:17 pm GMT

Thanks for sharing Jon-- can you comment on what the criteria were that qualified the right siting locations for wind that didn't upset the local environment? What was measured? What data was used?

Thanks again!

Jon Schwedler's picture
Jon Schwedler on Jul 14, 2020 5:15 pm GMT

The conservation information used to develop the Site Wind Right Map pulls together the best available science on high-quality wildlife habitat and intact landscapes from over 100 data sources. It is based on a review of the existing research and discussions with key partners, including local, state, and federal wildlife agencies, and other conservation professionals. The map identifies sensitive natural habitats and distributions of wildlife species that may be adversely impacted by wind energy development. These include:

  1. Whooping crane stopover sites
  2. Eagle and other raptor nesting areas;
  3. High waterfowl breeding density areas;
  4. Important bird areas;
  5. Bat roosts;
  6. Threatened and endangered species;
  7. Big game habitats;
  8. Important wetlands and rivers;
  9. Protected and managed lands;
  10. Intact natural habitats; and
  11. Other areas of biodiversity significance.

Further information on the data used in the analysis and the rationale for the assumptions reflected in the map are provided in the “methods” paper, which can be found on our Site Wind Right web page.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 14, 2020 5:26 pm GMT

Outstanding-- thanks for the follow up and for this interesting information. I wonder if similar tools have been developed internally for wildlife impacts of other large-scale utility projects

Jon Schwedler's picture
Jon Schwedler on Jul 14, 2020 10:13 pm GMT

 Yes, The Nature Conservancy is working with multiple developers and power purchasers operating in the central U.S.  We hope to broaden the reach of Site Wind Right to advance clean energy deployment across the Midwest.

Further, The Nature Conservancy is working on both of those issues through other regional projects, Power of Place in the Western US and Mining the Sun in Nevada and WV.  It is a priority for us to coordinate all of this work closely to advance low-impact renewable energy.

https://www.scienceforconservation.org/products/power-of-place
https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/west-virginia/stories-in-west-virginia/solar-reclaimed-mine-lands/ 

Charley Rattan's picture
Charley Rattan on Jul 9, 2020 2:26 pm GMT

That's interesting.  A most useful resource.

Jon Schwedler's picture
Jon Schwedler on Jul 9, 2020 5:54 pm GMT

Thanks Charley.  You can check out the resource directly at www.nature.org/SiteWindRight

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 9, 2020 4:47 pm GMT

While advancements in transmission and storage will be needed to fully realize this wind energy potential, it proves we can have both clean power and the lands and wildlife we love. It’s a win-win.” 

To be clear, a LOT of new transmission would be needed to utilize even half of this potential.  US states - west of the Mississippi river - will only need another 200-300 GW of wind to go zero-carbon. 

Jon Schwedler's picture
Jon Schwedler on Jul 9, 2020 8:37 pm GMT

Excellent point Joe.  Yes, that is correct. We do not mean to dictate that with existing engineering and technological constraints we will be able to develop 1,000 GW of wind energy in the Central US right now.  Our broader point is that we have more than enough capacity to cover the US wind-belt’s contribution to any deep decarbonization scenario, like what you reference above, purely on low-impact lands. We are very pleased with these results showing we can accomplish our climate goals while protecting important lands and waters, and are looking to work with parties who want good information on this topic.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jul 9, 2020 11:47 pm GMT

Jon,

Thanks for reply.  

Just wondering - are you in contact with the major developers that are working on wind in this region?

For example, Pattern Energy doing a lot of projects in NM, s-Power based in Utah, Invenergy, etc...

Would be great to see where existing coal plants and transmission lines fit on your map. 

Jon Schwedler's picture
Jon Schwedler on Jul 14, 2020 10:14 pm GMT

Yes, The Nature Conservancy is working with multiple developers and power purchasers operating in the central U.S.  We hope to broaden the reach of Site Wind Right to advance clean energy deployment across the Midwest.

Further, The Nature Conservancy is working on both of those issues through other regional projects, Power of Place in the Western US and Mining the Sun in Nevada and WV.  It is a priority for us to coordinate all of this work closely to advance low-impact renewable energy.

https://www.scienceforconservation.org/products/power-of-place
https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/west-virginia/stories-in-west-virginia/solar-reclaimed-mine-lands/ 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jul 14, 2020 5:16 am GMT

Would be even more useful to overlay areas where wind velocities are suitable for reasonable energy production and where the transmission corridors actually exist (including voltages). 

The point being practical and economic deployment of Midwestern wind turbines is not the easy process some imagine. Throw in the mismatch between wind generation and actual energy need as well distance to load centers, then the picture becomes even murkier.

Also, nobody can actually live where these massive eyesores sit because of the safety hazard from debris thrown from the huge rotating machines. Relatively small consideration unless ten-of-thousands of the machines are spewed all over the countryside. That is what is required for 100% green energy.

The real world is not the pretty picture painted by folks living in Ivory Towers or the elite making money from resources that can only exist as subsidized wards of the state.

Jon Schwedler's picture
Jon Schwedler on Jul 14, 2020 10:14 pm GMT

Our assessment of low-impact wind  potential factors general engineering constraints like unfavorable terrain and low wind speed, as well has human land use considerations such as urban areas.  The article notes that advancements in transmission will be necessary to realize the full potential of wind in this region.  Many new powerlines are being planned. 

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »