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Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects
environmental impacts of wind-energy projects and to reduce or mitigate negative environmental effects.
Current Guidance for Reviewing Wind-Energy Proposals
The United States is in the early stages of learning how to plan for and regulate wind-energy facilities. Federal regulation of wind-energy facilities is minimal if the facility does not have a federal nexus (that is, receive federal funding or require a federal permit), which is the case for most energy development in the United States. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, oil, and natural gas, but it does not regulate the construction of individual electricity-generation (except for nonfederal hydropower), transmission, or distribution facilities. Apart from Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, federal and state environmental laws protecting birds and bats are the main legal constraints on wind-energy facilities not on federal lands or without a federal nexus.
Wind energy is a recent addition to the energy mix in most areas, and regulation of wind energy is evolving rapidly. In evaluating current regulatory review processes, the committee was struck by the minimal guidance offered to developers, regulators, or the public about (1) the quantity and kinds of information to be provided for review; (2) the degrees of adverse or beneficial effects of proposed wind developments to consider critical for approving or disallowing a proposed project; and (3) the competing costs and benefits of a proposed project to weigh, and how to weigh them, with regard to that single proposal or in comparison with likely alternatives if that project is not built. Such guidance, and technical assistance with gathering and interpreting information needed for decision making, would be enormously useful. This guidance and technical assistance cast at the appropriate jurisdictional level could be developed by state and local governments working with groups composed of wind-energy developers and nongovernmental organizations representing all views of wind energy, in addition to other government agencies. The matrix of government responsibilities and the evaluation guide in Chapter 5 of this report should help the formulation of such guidance.
The committee judges that material in Chapter 5 could be a major step in the direction of an analytic framework for reviewing wind-energy proposals and for evaluating existing installations. If it were followed and adequately documented, it would provide a basis not only for evaluating an individual project but also for comparing two or more proposed projects and for undertaking an assessment of the cumulative effects of other human activities. It also could be used to project the likely cumulative effects of additional wind-energy facilities whose number and placement are identi-