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Report Targets Data on Avian Issues at Solar Energy Facilities

May 4, 2015

Understanding  how birds are affected by utility-scale solar facilities is the focus of a new NREL report that was completed in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory. The report, A Review of Avian Monitoring and Mitigation Information at Existing Utility-Scale Solar Facilities, summarizes incidence, monitoring, and mitigation of avian fatality at solar energy facilities.

Utility-scale solar energy development can affect birds and avian communities directly through fatality or indirectly through degradation, loss, or fragmentation of habitat. In general, direct fatalities are related to collisions with man-made structures at the project site or flight through regions of high solar flux. Collisions can occur with all types of solar energy technologies, but solar flux effects on birds have been observed only at facilities with towers equipped to concentrate solar power.

The report identifies several recommendations for improving understanding and minimizing occurrence of avian fatality at solar energy facilities:

  • Consistency and standardization in avian monitoring and reporting protocols need to be improved.
  • Additional systematic data on avian fatalities are needed to decrease uncertainty about the risks of solar energy development to avian populations.
  • Development of a solar-avian science plan will improve the scientific value of avian mortality data, inform decisions about project siting and design, and identify future research needs.
  • The industry, federal and state agencies, and other stakeholders should work collaboratively toward developing and implementing a useful and scientifically rigorous data collection program, evaluating avian mortality related to utility-scale solar development and its causes, and identifying appropriate mitigation measures.

Intended as an initial rapid assessment, the report summarizes available mortality data and current monitoring and reporting requirements for both solar and non-solar energy projects.

The work was sponsored by the DOE SunShot Initiative.

—Linh Truong