Wind Energy In The Midwest
Wind turbines. Photo by Jennifer Tomaloff/Flickr
As concerns mount over the high costs and long-term environmental impacts of fossil fuels, wind has become an increasingly important sector of the energy industry. In 2009, the U.S. wind industry supported 85,000 jobs in all 50 states. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that within the next 20 years, 20 percent of the nation’s electricity could be generated by wind.
Of course, more wind power means more wind turbines.
In the Midwest, alternative energy is a burgeoning business. Ohio alone has the potential to generate at least 10 percent of its electricity from wind in the next decade—enough to power more than 1.5 million homes.
It’s a promising start, but wind’s future is far from certain. There is no federal regulator for wind power projects, which has led to a patchwork of state and local regulations across the Midwest. As a result, wind energy developers have been frustrated by protracted, unpredictable and fragmented responses from the natural resource agencies in these states—and the agencies themselves have missed key opportunities to protect fish and wildlife.
A growing number of proposed wind facilities across the Midwest have been delayed or even abandoned because endangered or threatened species—such as the Indiana bat and the piping plover—live at proposed site locations.
How can we protect wildlife as wind energy inevitably expands?
We’re working on that.
A “Wind – Win” Situation
To speed up the approval of wind energy plants while protecting endangered or threatened species the Fund is preparing a Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) that covers 27 million acres and 30 federally listed species that may be impacted by future wind energy projects across the Midwest region.
That’s a pretty big plan.
To prepare this plan we’re working with a coalition of eight states—Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio as well as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and representatives of the wind energy industry. This multistate and multispecies approach means that the wind industry can count on consistent conservation guidelines across these eight states.
By providing streamlined permit conditions, the MSHCP helps developers and operators take a more strategic approach to choosing sites and designing projects. At the same time, the plan ensures that the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service can protect listed species mandated by the Endangered Species Act and still support an energy source that lowers global greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s definitely a “wind-win” situation in the Midwest.