Rob Caldwell is president of Duke Energy Renewables.
Demand for energy can put enormous stress on the environment, habitats and the wildlife that lives there. The wind energy industry is proud of its legacy as a source of low-impact electricity that is leading the way in providing conservation benefits to wildlife and ecosystems. Every year, the wind industry displaces 43 million cars’ worth of carbon pollution while also avoiding sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide air pollutants.
As the industry grows to meet customer demands, we want to do more.
We need to invest more to help us to develop better and more practicable solutions to wind and wildlife challenges for onshore wind. That will help as wind continues to provide significant conservation benefits for the planet we all share.
To address this opportunity, in late 2018 wind industry leaders joined forces to create the Wind Wildlife Research Fund to support research that will benefit the industry as a whole by reducing barriers to siting and operating wind projects. 2019 was the Fund’s first year; 33 companies have invested in this crucial initiative, and support to the tune of nearly $830,000 made seven valuable research projects possible.
Several new projects are now being considered for 2020, which will be a pivotal year for renewables. According to AWEA’s recent quarterly U.S. Wind Industry Market Report, the near-term wind project pipeline grew to yet another record in the third quarter of 2019, reaching 46.5 GW – equal to almost half of the wind energy operating today. There are now 22,651 MW under construction and an additional 23,844 MW in advanced development, including 5,792 MW of offshore wind. Onshore wind capacity in the U.S. is projected to more than double from 100 GW today to 220 GW by 2030. This growth can only be accomplished by pooling our resources and investing in focused, scientific research that advances expedited solutions to wildlife challenges.
The Fund makes this possible, but successful outcomes depend on strong industry engagement, and more support is needed. The level of investment needed to address the wind industry’s highest priority wildlife issues requires increasing both the number of companies that participate in the Fund as well as the total contributions.
Wide and robust industry support for the Fund will enable us to leverage our joint resources to address our impacts on wildlife, demonstrate our commitment to finding science-based solutions, and drive credible results that reduce uncertainty and costs while enabling wind energy to achieve its full potential as a truly clean, sustainable source of power.
I encourage every company that has a stake in the future of wind energy to support this initiative that will benefit us all – but it’s only possible if more companies participate.
The Fund’s activities and priorities are guided by an Advisory Council comprised of the Fund’s major contributors, and all Fund participants determine their support for individual research projects. Companies that contribute to the Fund also become AWWI Partners or Friends. If you would like to learn more about the Wind Wildlife Research Fund, please contact Kyle Boudreaux, NextEra Energy and Chair of the Fund Advisory Council at firstname.lastname@example.org, or AWWI Executive Director Abby Arnold at 202-448-8775 or email@example.com.