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Sage-grouse collaborative to fund two wind-related studies

Sage-grouse collaborative to fund two wind-related studies

The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC) Sage-Grouse Research Collaborative (SGC) recently announced that it has awarded $533,500 in continued research funding in 2012 for activities related to sage-grouse and wind energy development. According to the release, the funds will support continuing research efforts for two projects in Wyoming.

The first study is focusing on the ecology of male greater sage-grouse, with respect to wind energy development, and is being led by Dr. Joshua Millspaugh, professor of wildlife conservation at the University of Missouri.  This study, taking place at Power Company of Wyoming’s Chokecherry and Sierra Madre site, will track the movement of sage-grouse through the use of VHF radio-transmitters and GPS units and evaluate lek activity through the use of two to four years of pre-construction and five or more years of post-construction data. According to Dr. Millspaugh, the purpose of the study is to “investigate and quantify construction and operational effects of wind energy development on male sage-grouse through study of survival, movements, habitat use, lek dynamics, and sightability on the site, using a Before-After Control-Impact (BACI) design.”
 
The second study, initiated in April 2009 under the direction of Dr. Matt Holloran, lead researcher and senior ecologist at Wyoming Wildlife Consultants, LLC, is taking place near the PacifiCorp Seven Mile Hill wind project located approximately 15 km west of Medicine Bow, Wyo. According to the release, the research team is focused on tracking female greater sage-grouse equipped with VHF radio-transmitters to “document seasonal habitats (e.g., nesting, brood-rearing, summer, winter) and population demographics (e.g., survival, nesting success, chick productivity)”. According to Holloran, the purpose of the study is to “compare greater sage-grouse using habitats near wind turbines to grouse using habitats away from wind turbines to assess population-level effects of the wind energy development.”  It is expected that the efforts related to this study will continue through at least the 2013 breeding season.
 
Through the collection of data related to these and other studies, the SGC plans to conduct a combined analysis to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the potential impacts of wind power on sage-grouse across their range. It is important to note that the ultimate goal of these efforts is to understand what actual adverse effects wind energy may pose to sage-grouse and in turn inform wind power development and sage-grouse management strategies.

AWEA Director of Siting Policy John Anderson commented, "Sage-grouse are a very sensitive species that has been under pressure for many years from a variety of human developments in the western U.S., including highways, ranchettes, fences, fossil fuel extraction, cattle grazing, agriculture, and more.  These studies and the collaborative that is funding them are part of a continuing commitment on the wind industry's part of supporting research to understand what if any additional impacts wind power has on sage-grouse and to find ways to keep those impacts to a minimum."

Background on the Sage-Grouse Research Collaborative

The SGC was formed in 2010 under the NWCC’s Wildlife Workgroup’s Grassland and Shrub Steppe Species Subgroup to conduct research on potential wind energy impacts to sage-grouse. The SGC is working in coordination with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. For complete information on the SGC, please visit http://www.nationalwind.org/sagegrouse.aspx.

EDP Renewables provided seed funding to convene the Collaborative. Additional funding for facilitation support has been provided by Iberdrola Renewables, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Power Company of Wyoming LLC, RES Americas, Ridgeline Energy LLC, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Current facilitation funding support is provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and by the
American Wind Wildlife Institute.

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