Enabling Renewable Energy While Protecting Wildlife: An Ecological Risk-Based Approach to Wind Energy Development Using Ecosystem-Based Management Values

Andrea Copping, Alicia Gorton, Roel May, Finlay Bennet, Elise DeGeorge, Miguel Goncalves, Bob Rumes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus Citations


Acceptance of wind energy development is challenged by stakeholders’ concerns about potential effects on the environment, specifically on wildlife, such as birds, bats, and (for offshore wind) marine animals, and the habitats that support them. Communities near wind energy developments are also concerned with social and economic impacts, as well as impacts on aesthetics, historical sites, and recreation and tourism. Lack of a systematic, widely accepted, and balanced approach for measuring the potential damage to wildlife, habitats, and communities continues to leave wind developers, regulators, and other stakeholders in an uncertain position. This paper explores ecological risk-based management (RBM) in wind energy development for land-based and offshore wind installations. This paper provides a framework for the adaptation of ecosystem-based management to wind energy development and examines that framework through a series of case studies and best management practices for applying risk-based principles to wind energy. Ten case studies indicate that wind farm monitoring is often driven by regulatory requirements that may not be underpinned by scientific questions. While each case applies principles of adaptive management, there is room for improvement in applying scientific principles to the data collection and analysis. Challenges and constraints for wind farm development to meet RBM framework criteria include collecting sufficient baseline and monitoring data year-round, engaging stakeholder facilitators, and bringing together large and diverse scientific teams. The RBM framework approach may provide insights for improved siting and consenting/permitting processes for regulators and their advisors, particularly in those nations where wind energy is still in the early development stages on land or at sea.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number9352
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5700-78577


  • Best management practices
  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk-based management
  • Wind energy


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