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Guide for evaluating wind energy projects  

Some elements to consider in policy, planning, and public relations

1. Have mechanisms been established to provide necessary information to interested and affected parties, and to seek meaningful input from them as wind-energy projects are planned and implemented? Are developers required to provide early notification of their intent to develop wind energy?

2. Are procedures–including policies and regulations–in place for evaluating the impacts of wind-energy projects that cross jurisdictional boundaries?

3. Is guidance available to developers, regulators, and the public about what kinds of information are needed for review, what degrees of adverse and beneficial effects of proposed wind-energy developments should be considered critical in evaluating a proposed project, and how competing costs and benefits of a proposed project should be weighed with regard to that proposal only, or by comparison with likely alternatives?

4. Are regional planning documents available that provide guidance on the quality of wind resources, capacity of transmission options,potential markets, major areas of concern, and tradeoffs that should be considered?

Legal and Regulatory Considerations

1. Are wind-energy guidelines and regulations issued by different federal agencies compatible, are those guidelines and regulations aligned with other federal regulating rules and regulations, and do the guidelines and regulations follow acceptable scientific principles when establishing data requirements?

2. Does the review process include steps that explicitly address the cumulative impacts of wind-energy projects over space and time; that is, by reviewing each new project in the context of other existing and planned projects in the region?

Evaluation of Impacts

1. Are the biological, aesthetic, cultural, and socioeconomic attributes of the region sufficiently well known to allow an accurate assessment of the environmental impacts of the wind-energy project, and to distinguish among the potential sites considered during the site selection process? Are there species, habitats, recreational areas, or cultural sites of special interest or concern that will be affected by the project? Are there key gaps in the needed information that should be addressed with further research before a project is approved or to guide the operation of an approved project?

Environmental Impacts

1. What environmental mitigation measures will be taken and how will their effectiveness be measured? Are there any legal requirements for such measures (e.g., habitat conservation plans)? Are any listed species at risk from the proposed facility?

2. How and by whom will the environmental impacts be evaluated once the project is in operation? If these evaluations indicate needed changes in the operation of the facility, how will such a decision be made and how will their implementation be assured?

3. What pre-siting studies for site selection and pre-construction studies for impact assessment and mitigation planning are required?
4. What post-construction studies, with appropriate controls, are required to evaluate impacts, modify mitigation if needed, and improve future planning?

Impacts on Human Health and Well-Being

1. Have pre-construction noise surveys been conducted to determine the background noise levels? Will technical assessments of the operational noise levels be conducted? Is there an established process to resolve complaints from the operation of the turbines?

2. Is there a process in place to address complaints of shadow flicker and does the operator use the best software programs to minimize any flicker?

Aesthetic Impacts

1. Has the project planning involved professional assessment of potential visual impacts, using established techniques such as those recommended by the U.S. Forest Service or U.S. Bureau of Land Management?

2. How have the public and the locally affected inhabitants been involved in evaluating the potential aesthetic and visual impacts?

Cultural Impacts

1. Has there been expert consideration of the possible impacts of the project on recreational opportunities and on historical, sacred, and archeological sites?

Economic and Fiscal Impacts

1. Have the direct economic impacts of the project been accurately evaluated, including the types and pay scales of the jobs produced during the construction and operational phases, the taxes that will be produced, and costs to the public?

2. Has there been a careful explication of the indirect economic costs and benefits, including opportunity costs and the distribution of monetary and non-monetary benefits and costs?

3. Are the guarantees and mitigation measures designed to fit the project and address the interests of the community members and the local jurisdictions?

Electromagnetic Interference

1. Has the developer assessed the possibility of radio, television, and radar interference?

Cumulative Effects

1. How will cumulative effects be assessed, and what will be included in that assessment (i.e., the effects only of other wind-energy installations, or of all other electricity generators, or of all other anthropogenic impacts on the area)? Have the spatial and temporal scales of the cumulative-effects assessment been specified?

cohoctonwindwatch

4 May 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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