Advocacy

Renewable Energy and Birds

Audubon New York's Positions on Wind and Solar Energy
Snow Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese. Photo: Greg Latza
Advocacy

Renewable Energy and Birds

Audubon New York's Positions on Wind and Solar Energy

Audubon’s scientists have determined that climate change is the greatest threat to birds. Birds are vulnerable to subtle changes in their environment, such as availability of food, water, and habitat, which can cause them to shift or lose their ranges. Our peer-reviewed research shows that 314 species — roughly half of all North American bird species — are threatened with the loss of at least 50 percent of their current ranges by 2080.

Audubon and other leaders in the science and conservation space agree that in order to help prevent species extinctions and other catastrophic effects of climate change we must reduce carbon pollution as quickly as possible. This will require us to rapidly increase energy efficiency, expand energy storage, modernize transmission capabilities, and accelerate the development of renewable energy.

Investing in renewable energy, like solar and wind, will help to reduce carbon pollution and protect birds threatened by climate change. Audubon strongly supports the development of renewable energy projects and technologies that avoid, minimize, or effectively mitigate negative impacts to birds and their habitat.
 

Solar power

The future looks bright for solar power. More than 1 million homes across the United States now run on energy generated by rooftop solar panels, 1,294 MW of community solar have been installed, and more than 6,000 solar projects over 1 MW are in operation or development.

That’s great news for all of us — and for birds, too.  With solar power more accessible than ever, many people can now do their part to transition to cleaner sources of energy at home, and save money on electricity bills in the long run.

Large-scale solar installations place many solar panels in a single location to generate electricity for utility companies, which then distribute that power to its customers. These large-scale solar sites can benefit birds overall, but it’s vital for developers to minimize harm to wildlife by carefully considering the placement of these installations. Solar installers should avoid siting installations in areas that provide habitat, food, or water for threatened or endangered species, and prioritize the development of brownfields, rooftops, and capped landfills. Click here for more information on Going Solar in New York.


Wind power

Audubon strongly supports wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce the threats posed to birds and people by climate change. However, we also advocate that wind power facilities should be planned, sited, and operated in ways that minimize harm to birds and other wildlife by avoiding migration corridors and critical habitat, and employing technology and practices that reduce bird collisions.

Wind power is currently the most economically competitive form of renewable energy. As of January 2017, the wind facilities installed in the United States provided more than 82,000 MW of capacity. With our current transmission infrastructure, the Department of Energy estimates that wind has the potential to generate 20 percent of the nation's energy. Every MW-hour produced by wind energy avoids an average of 1,220 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. If the United States obtains 20 percent of its electricity from wind power by 2020, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 71 million cars off the road or planting 104 million acres of trees.

Audubon advocated for the inclusion of environmental guidelines in the New York State procurement process for offshore wind and provided technical expertise that will help minimize threats to birds and other wildlife by ensuring that turbines are properly sited and monitored. We will continue to work with the Public Service Commission and NYS Energy Research and Development Authority to refine these guidelines and promote the adoption of best management practices for the construction and operation of wind turbines in New York State’s coastal waters. Click here for more information on Audubon's position on wind power.