The Penascal Wind Power Projects in Kenedy County, Texas, one of the wind farms recognized for its a …
The Penascal Wind Power Projects in Kenedy County, Texas, one of the wind farms recognized for its acheivements in Iberdrola Renewables’ industry-leading wildlife program. (Photo: Business Wire)
Iberdrola Renewables rolled out the latest phase of its ABPP at the beginning of 2011 with new protocols and procedures for implementing the wildlife program with an innovative approach to wildlife monitoring and reporting. Onsite technicians now conduct ongoing bird and bat surveys, including walking inspections around turbines to collect data for analysis on how wildlife interacts with wind farms.
“Since 2008, when Iberdrola Renewables became the first wind company in the U.S. to introduce a company-wide ABPP, we have been refining and improving our processes,” said Stu Webster, director of permitting and environmental affairs for Iberdrola Renewables. “Now we are presenting the first awards to wind farms and an individual technician who displayed exceptional performance in this important task.”
The Casselman and Peñascal Wind Power Projects in Pennsylvania and Texas respectively won the 2011 awards for wind plant achievement. Stewart Banks, a technician at the Hardscrabble Wind Power Project in New York, was honored for individual achievement.
Casselman Wind Power Project in Pennsylvania was the site of a groundbreaking, two-year study on the interaction between bats and wind turbines. It was conducted by independent conservation group Bat Conservation International (BCI) through the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC), which is a coalition of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and BCI.
“From the start, the entire Casselman staff and the guys back at our National Control Center in Portland have been 100 percent in the game on contributing to research on this fascinating but not well-understood species,” said Chris Long, Casselman plant manager. “I’m just honored to pick up the award on my team’s behalf.”
This support and effort by onsite personnel continued with the implementation of the wildlife program at Casselman. Their exceptional performance of compliance requirements and monitoring was exemplified during agency site visits to demonstrate and discuss the wildlife program.
Peñascal Wind Power Project sits near a migratory bird flyway just west of Baffin Bay on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and Iberdrola Renewables took extraordinary measures to site turbines away from waterfowl flyways, potential high bird-use areas such as oak mottes, seasonal wetlands and other resources. In addition, the project instituted an experimental radar and visibility monitoring and control system to minimize impacts on migratory birds.
“Now it’s up to us as operators to monitor our impacts. The Peñascal site is also home to oil and gas operations as well as a working cattle ranch. Everything we do in society has impacts on wildlife,” said Peñascal plant manager Dan Pitts. “One of the things that makes me proud to work for Iberdrola Renewables is that we monitor and assess our effects, managing our projects to avoid unanticipated impacts.”
Peñascal staff have demonstrated outstanding responsiveness to the numerous environmental requests and demands associated with a new project start-up. This included their support to implement the experimental radar/visibility control system to reduce avian impacts. They also acted as the original pilot site for the wildlife program that helped integrate the program with on-site operations. This has proved essential to the success and acceptance of the wildlife program.
“Stewart Banks, who was recognized for individual achievement, has been instrumental in the implementation of the wildlife program when working with various agency groups to address any site specific concerns,” said Jerry Roppe, wind operations wildlife permitting compliance managerfor Iberdrola Renewables. “His presentations during site visits were professional but also went further and depicted the spirit and the intent of the ABPP and Iberdrola Renewables’ environmental commitment. He has been called on to go well beyond the original scope of the program and has responded with innovative approaches and exceptional performance.”
Onsite technician training
As part of Iberdrola Renewables’ ABPP and wildlife program, an onsite operations technician is identified and trained as the Environmental Coordinator (EC) at each site in the company’s fleet of wind farms. On a regular schedule, the EC visually examines the immediate area around selected wind turbines, walking pre-determined routes along access roads and around turbine pads searching for carcasses. Then the ECs use a mobile technology device to photograph, document and report any observed casualties directly to Portland, Ore., headquarters for processing, notifications and any specific follow-up required. The efforts by the ECs are audited by third-party biological contractors, verifying the searchers’ efficiencies, thereby increasing the level of confidence in the data collected.
Measuring Data and Assessing Impacts
Utilizing the bird and bat casualty reports submitted by each environmental coordinator, Iberdrola Renewables analyzes the data to compare with findings from pre-construction studies, from adjacent projects and from regional levels. This information is also examined to determine any trends or patterns, to assess impact levels of wind developments, and if necessary, investigate the need for adaptive management measures.
“It is part of our ongoing goal to minimize the impact of wind turbines on birds and bats,” said Kevin Devlin, vice president for operations at Iberdrola Renewables. “We have taken the next proactive step of partnering with conservation groups and government agencies to actively and accurately self-report our impacts on birds and bats. This is not something we are required to do. We just think it’s the right thing to do, and our operations staff is proud to be part of it.”
Iberdrola Renewables’ corporate policy about wildlife protection establishes a process for contact with agencies and non-governmental organizations early in the site assessment stage of project evaluation. It also sets up internal policies for pre- and post-construction monitoring and proper site design, impact assessment, permit compliance, nest management, training, mortality reduction measures and mitigation. It supports Iberdrola Renewables efforts on research and includes sections on quality control, public awareness, cost and implementation.
The ABPP plan is available electronically at www.iberdrolarenewables.us/pdf/Signed_ABPP_10-28-08.pdf.