Uncovering drivers of risk is crucial to understanding interactions between wildlife and wind turbines, and identifying options for impact minimization. These drivers tie to co-variates linked to behavior and movement patterns that allow us to estimate locations and periods of risk. For volant species, atmospheric flow can have significant influence on flight patterns. For obligate soaring birds, like golden eagles, updraft velocities can inform where eagles are likely to travel, at what altitude, and where conditions are not likely sufficient to sustain soaring flight. This has been an active area of study in recent years, using relatively coarse atmospheric data generally at the 20km x 20km scale or larger. Leveraging a 20-year dataset from the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) (https://www.mmm.ucar.edu/weather-research-and-forecasting-model), we are quantifying vertical velocities across the continental United States at a 2km x 2km resolution. Wind resource data sets originally were static maps showing the mean annual wind speed over an area. However, for these data sets to be optimally used for various applications they must be high-resolution time series, seamlessly span large geographic contexts, and account for uncertainty in wind speed. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is producing public available datasets that meet these criteria and will be bias corrected to yield the most accurate wind resource data. This effort is an augment to the current WIND Toolkit which houses a high resolution data set. In the new iteration of the WIND Toolkit, a 20-year dataset will be used to improve the accuracy and estimate uncertainty using ensemble and machine-learning techniques. The resulting product will be the most accurate dataset of its size and at a 2km x 2km spatial and 5-minute temporal resolution. Through this work, a mesoscale vertical velocity layer will be produced by calculating the likelihood of orographic updraft and thermal updraft conditions across the continental United States. Specifically, we will use WRF model output combined with digital elevation maps to predict updrafts and then determine if vertical velocities are sufficient to support Golden Eagle soaring and gliding. Ultimately this data layer will be made available as a GIS layer in the Wind Prospector (maps.nrel.gov/wind-prospector/) tool or a similar framework. Data that will be incorporated include wind speed, direction temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, air density, precipitation rate, solar radiation, atmospheric stability, skin temperature, and upward heat flux. These products will advance research on interactions between volant species and wind energy by providing open access to highly resolved data with uncertainty quantification not previously available at this scale.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePresented at the 13th Wind Wildlife Research Meeting, 1-4 December 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5000-78207


  • eagle risk
  • vertical velocities
  • volant species
  • wind farms


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