Photo: Wind Farm
A wind farm in Kansas. Photo courtesy of Rusty Dodson.
Strategy Announced for Wind Development in New Mexico
Diverse groups collaborate to boost wind industry while protecting wildlife
ALBUQUERQUE (May 1, 2012)—Nine leading wind energy companies and seven conservation groups in New Mexico, along with various state agencies and other private and public stakeholders have developed best management practices or BMPs that will be used to ensure wind farms and nature can coexist. The New Mexico Wind and Wildlife Collaborative (NMWWC) will help New Mexico meet its renewable energy goal of obtaining 20 percent of its electrical energy from renewable sources by 2020, and at same time protect wildlife in the process.
The BMPs are the result of a collaborative effort that allowed a number of different types of interests affected by wind development to come together to help preserve existing habitat and species while furthering societal goals for the development of green energy.
"The best management practices were written using the best available science to guide conservation actions," says Christopher Rustay, Conservation Delivery Leader for Playa Lakes Joint Venture, who facilitated the process. "Because of the collaborative and inclusive nature of the group, we are confident that the options provided will be useful for both conservation and wind energy development."
"These BMPs were developed over the course of two years, and a lot of time was spent building trust and learning about our partners objectives so that we could develop balanced practices that both industry and the conservation community could support," adds Matt Desmond, New Mexico Development Manager for First Wind.
BMPs were developed for 12 wildlife species or habitats of concern, including raptors, long-billed curlew, bats, lesser prairie-chickens, reptiles and amphibians, and playas. They are intended to help guide the placement of renewable energy development facilities and the transmission of that energy so that wildlife resource concerns may be avoided, minimized or mitigated. The NMWWC has been operating under the 'smart from the start' premise, having proactively negotiated common goals and tangible steps forward to help expedite renewable energy production.
"Audubon recognizes that wind power creates unique threats to birds and, more specifically, wind development threatens grassland habitats in eastern New Mexico vital to lesser prairie-chickens," says Karyn Stockdale, Executive Director of Audubon New Mexico. "That's why it was critical that we partner with the wind industry to proactively address these issues so that wind energy can move forward, but in the least harmful way possible."
New Mexico is the second state, following Colorado earlier this year, to have developed BMPs to address conservation concerns related to renewable energy development. Both states followed a similar collaborative process to create best management practices for species and habitats affected by wind energy development, with some of the same industry partners participating in the two groups.
"Wind energy can provide a tremendous economic boost for rural communities along New Mexico's eastern plains while offering significant savings to urban consumers," says Craig Cox, Executive Director of Interwest Energy Alliance. "Now that we have Colorado and New Mexico using this collaborative model of developing best management practices, we will be able to expedite wind energy development while creating new jobs across both states."
To make these guidelines more widely available, the NMWWC developed a website hosted by Playa Lakes Joint Venture where visitors can download the BMPs. The website provides important information to developers by identifying what resources of concern might be affected by wind development in the state, where developers might encounter conflicts with those resources, and appropriate minimization or mitigation of potential impacts if avoidance is impractical. As new science and technology emerges, the BMPs will be reviewed and updated by the group.
While the BMPs are not binding or regulatory in nature, the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority will also be linking to the NMWWC's website in an effort to encourage voluntary participation by prospective developers of wind, solar and geothermal energy projects.
For details about the best management practices as well as information on all of the partners, visit www.pljv.org/windandwildlife/nm.
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