Energy Siting: Resources for Preliminary Site Assessment

David Clarke, Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Choosing where to build a solar or wind energy facility is a complex process that can have important implications for impacts to wildlife. In 2012, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) released the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines to help wind developers avoid and minimize impacts of land-based wind projects on wildlife and their habitats. Informed by discussions among the wind industry, conservation organizations, regulators, and others, these voluntary guidelines are based on a tiered approach to help developers assess and reduce risk to wildlife from construction and operation of a wind energy facility. Many solar developers are applying the risk assessment approach outlined in the Wind Energy Guidelines when siting solar projects.

Tier 1 of the Guidelines informs preliminary assessment of a site being considered for development. In Tier 1, developers use existing research, databases, maps, and other information to identify potential wildlife issues at prospective sites. Tier 1 studies can also identify potential wildlife conflicts to be assessed by professional biologists on-the-ground in Tier 2. For information on the rest of the decision framework from the Guidelines, please refer to the decision tree below.

To conduct preliminary ecological evaluations of a potential site as outlined in Tier 1, developers need access to high-quality wildlife data for the landscape being considered for development. The list below provides examples of several national, regional, and state-level resources for wildlife data that could inform Tier 1 studies.

To learn more about the history and implementation of the Guidelines, please see our Wind-Wildlife Success Story “Wind Energy Guidelines: Science and Collaboration at Work, Every Day,” or review the training materials available on the USFWS website.

Region-Specific Tools and Resources*