July 28, 2020 | Omaha, NE
This week The Nature Conservancy publicly released a first-of-its-kind analysis identifying the most promising places in the Central U.S. to develop wind energy that avoid conflicts with people and wildlife. The associated mapping tool, called Site Wind Right, is available online for power purchasers, utilities, companies, agencies, and municipalities in Nebraska to help build new wind projects faster, with lower costs.
In Nebraska, Site Wind Right mapping revealed 2.3 million acres available for wind development, away from important habitat for wildlife such as Greater Prairie-Chicken and Whooping Crane. If those low-conflict acres were built out for wind development, it could generate 70 GW. That’s a lot of potential energy.
The Central U.S. is known as the “wind-belt,” where nearly 80% of the country’s current and planned wind energy capacity exists. Conservancy scientists evaluated more than one hundred sources of data on wind, land use, and wildlife across these 17 states to detect places where conflicts between wind energy and wildlife are likely to be minimal. The results were both enlightening and encouraging.
“That’s a lot of potential energy – comparable to total U.S. electric generation from all sources today. While advancements in transmission and storage will be needed to fully realize this wind energy potential, it proves we can have both clean power and the lands and wildlife we love. It’s a win-win.," said Hack.
Wind projects sited in the wrong place can threaten some of our most treasured landscapes and wildlife. The Nature Conservancy estimates that renewable energy development could affect 76 million acres of land in the United States— an area about the size of Arizona. The good news is this study shows we can do it in a way that is good for nature, climate, and communities.
The study brought accolades from another early reviewer, the national Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, who awarded Site Wind Right their “Natural Resources” award.
Site Wind Right has also won support from the Audubon Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“We need more tools like this to speed-up our transition away from burning fossil fuels to multiple renewable energy options. Well sited wind energy allows us to meet our climate goals, advances conservation, and ensures that we avoid irreversible environmental impacts,” said Kristal Stoner, Executive Director of Nebraska Audubon.
The Nature Conservancy is currently looking to broaden the analysis of Site Wind Right to include other forms of renewable energy, and other parts of the country.
“The Nature Conservancy supports the rapid acceleration of renewable energy development in the United States to help reduce climate pollution,” said Hack. “We are looking forward to providing Site Wind Right to the people making important decisions about Nebraska’s clean energy future.”