Thursday, January 12, 2023

PA Audubon Council Releases Guidelines For Municipalities On Bird-Friendly, Environmentally Responsible Utility Scale Solar Energy Facilities

The Guidelines were developed by the Council's Renewable Energy Committee and presented to PA Audubon Chapter leaders in a webinar on December 6.

The Guidelines provide information and resources for Pennsylvania municipalities to use in developing ordinances for utility-scale solar projects. 

Such ordinances can require solar development be consistent with the planning goals of the municipality, conserve natural resources and habitat, and provide assurances for the health and economic interests of the community. 

These Guidelines deliver information on proper siting criteria for renewable energy projects to ensure that critical bird areas, migration routes and important habitats for all wildlife are protected. 

When properly sited, utility-scale solar projects effectively avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts not only to birds, but also other wildlife, habitat, and the surrounding community.

“The Climate change is one of the biggest threats to birds, both now and in the future. Counteracting this threat means not only dramatically reducing carbon emissions but doing so in a way that does not cause further harm to birds and their habitats. 

“In that regard, utility-scale solar projects should be sited as close to users as possible, both to minimize bird deaths from collisions with transmission lines and to avoid the energy losses that occur during transmission and distribution.

Other recommendations included in the Guidelines are--

-- Forests should not be logged;

-- Migratory flyways, including ridgetops and stopovers such as wetlands, grasslands, forests, conservation areas, and lakes should be avoided;

-- Habitat fragmentation should be limited;

-- Degradation of habitat from construction of roads, soil compaction and erosion, and road dust should be avoided; and

-- Introduction of invasive plants should be avoided, while native plants should be included.

The Renewable Energy Committee aims to provide information to Pennsylvania Audubon Chapters and others on: a) proper siting criteria for renewable energy projects to ensure that critical bird areas, migration routes and important wildlife habitats are protected, and b) methods to minimize and mitigate the impact of renewable energy projects on birds and other wildlife.

The Guidelines represent the position of the Pennsylvania Audubon Council’s Renewable Energy Committee which is solely responsible for its content. 

Questions should be directed to Committee Co-Chairs Laura Jackson and Judy Stepenaskie.  Click Here to contact the Renewable Energy Committee.

Click Here for a copy of the GuidelinesClick Here for the executive summaryClick Here for a video of the December 6 webinar.

For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the PA Audubon Council website.

(Photo: Wilson Elementary School, Carlisle, Cumberland County.)

Related Articles:

-- Agriculture Secretary Releases Guidance For Farms And Rural Communities Considering Solar Energy Production  [PaEN]

-- DCNR Announces Guidance For Planners Seeking To Generate Clean Renewable Energy Through Grid-Scale Solar Installations  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Extension: PA Landowners Guide To Utility-Scale Solar Leasing  [PaEN]

-- PA Solar Guidebooks: Helping Landowners and Municipalities Navigate Solar Growth  [PaEN]

-- New Guide To Solar Energy Development & Land Conservation Available From PA Land Trust Assn  [PaEN]

[Posted: January 12, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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