Wind Energy

Wind energy is one of the fastest growing types of green energy production in California and dozens of new and repowering projects have been proposed statewide. Like other types of energy production, wind energy has the potential for environmental impacts. Some potential impacts include habitat fragmentation, habitat loss and the incidental take of sensitive, rare, and State and Federally Threatened and Endangered or Fully Protected species. Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), applicants and lead agencies must avoid, minimize, and mitigate for those impacts.

To provide a science-based approach for addressing the potential impacts to birds and bats, CDFW and the California Energy Commission (CEC) developed and adopted the link opens in new tab or windowCalifornia Guidelines for Reducing Impacts to Birds and Bats from Wind Energy Development (PDF) (Guidelines). CDFW encourages the use of the voluntary Guidelines when working with wind-energy project proponents and lead agencies on proposed projects. The recommendations can be applied statewide, not just to a particular region or county, but may need to be integrated with regional and site-specific information and studies. Use of the study methods in the Guidelines, in combination with the biological resource information for each proposed project, allows permitting agencies to use the best information available when reviewing these projects. The Guidelines will be updated when new research findings and feedback indicates that revisions are needed.

Recommendations from the Guidelines include:

  • Methods to assess bird and bat activity at proposed sites;
  • Methods for developing pre-permitting study designs;
  • Pre- and post construction monitoring plans;
  • Impact avoidance and minimization methods; and
  • Mitigation measures to offset unavoidable environmental impacts.

Since the Guidelines were published, CDFW staff has been working diligently to provide lead agencies, project applicants, and stakeholders with as much information as possible regarding impact assessment protocols, suitable project siting designs, and acceptable mitigation measures. The goal is to facilitate the timely approval of wind energy projects while reducing impacts to birds and bats. This has been facilitated by the formation of an informal Interagency Wind Wildlife Workgroup (IWWW) with members from the CEC, CDFW, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The IWWW is committed to providing support and information to staff who are reviewing wind energy project documents by hosting open forum discussions with species experts and other staff involved in wind energy project review, and through a series of workshops. The IWWW is also committed to providing outreach to county lead agencies and project applicants that are planning or developing wind projects. The purpose of the outreach program is to educate and provide information to lead agencies and project applicants regarding potential impacts, assessment protocols, siting design, and mitigation measures before they enter the CEQA process. This will ensure that impacts to birds and bats are minimized while maintaining a valuable and feasible project for the applicant.

link opens in new tab or windowFrequently Asked Questions about Wind Development (PDF)

2008 Wind Energy Workshop

On March 4, 2008, CDFW hosted the first in a series of Wind Energy workshops. This workshop was an introduction to CDFW staff on wind energy production and an overview of the Guidelines. Presenters included several CDFW experts, a National Renewable Energy Lab representative, a representative from a wind energy research and development leader, and a consultant to the CEC and a leader in raptor research.

Organizations and Documents