Environmental Science Division (EVS)a Division of Argonne National Laboratory

Support of a multiagency avian-solar working group and publication of a science plan to better understand avian-solar interactions

September 8, 2016

Utility-scale solar energy development is increasing in the United States in response to national energy policy and federal and state renewable energy goals aimed at reducing dependence on fossil fuels and mitigating the effects of climate change. Wildlife interactions with utility-scale solar development, in particular avian fatalities, are not well understood and, if not properly addressed, could affect avian populations and present an impediment to meeting federal and state goals. To address the uncertainties regarding the nature and magnitude of avian-solar interactions and their influence on environmental decision making, several state and federal agencies have together formed a collaborative working group (CWG).

This multiagency CWG builds upon outcomes from several meetings among state and federal agencies, over the past 2 years. With support by Argonne's EVS staff, the CWG was established to promote better understanding of the impacts on avian species related to solar energy projects and associated infrastructure. The scope of the CWG includes all solar energy technologies (e.g., photovoltaic and concentrated solar power technologies) with initial emphasis on the southwestern states where most utility-scale solar has been developed. The purpose of the CWG is to:

  • Share and summarize existing information on avian-solar issues with other agencies, industry, and public stakeholders;
  • Identify information gaps related to avian-solar interactions and the data needed to better understand the nature and magnitude of those interactions;
  • Develop and prioritize science-based monitoring and research protocols to address information gaps; and
  • Coordinate future research activities related to avian-solar interactions.

The overall goal of the CWG is to develop better information that can be used to inform future environmental decisions that will reduce the impacts of solar energy development on birds. To realize this goal, the CWG, with support by EVS scientists, will develop an avian-solar science plan that will (1) document current and planned avian-solar research activities; (2) identify information gaps and research priorities; (3) identify agency roles in funding and oversight; and (4) assist in the development of feasible mitigation measures.

The draft science plan was recently released to the public on the CWG website. The final science plan is expected to be published by the end of October 2016, following a public comment period.

For more information about the CWG or the avian-solar science plan, please visit the CWG website at: http://blmsolar.anl.gov/program/avian-solar/.

[Source: Robert Sullivan, Argonne National Laboratory]
portrait of Leroy Walston