Wind Risk Assessment Map

Our Wind Risk Assessment Map promotes Bird-Smart wind energy siting by highlighting the locations of important bird areas that should be avoided by wind developers or approached with care.

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Though not a substitute for detailed site-by-site risk assessment, we hope that wind developers and state and federal regulatory agencies use this map as a tool to aid in siting decisions.

How to Use the Map

To view the Wind Assessment Map, you'll need Google Earth. (Download Google Earth for free.)

When you click on a state, chose the option to "Save As" and save the file to a place you'll remember (like your desktop). Then, open Google Earth, go to "File" on the top toolbar, chose "Open," and open the .kmz file you downloaded. After a moment of loading, you will be able to see many layers of data on proposed wind turbines.

About the Data

The locations of the wind turbines used in the study were derived using data supplied publicly by FAA (for proposed turbines) and USGS (for existing turbines). These data sets provide specific locations for individual wind turbines in GIS form.

The GIS files were de-duplicated by removing any turbines shown to be located within 50 feet or less of each other. We have also removed any proposed turbines that have already been assessed as high-risk for air traffic, as they are unlikely to be constructed. Decommissioned turbines were also removed from the assessment.

GIS analysis was conducted on behalf of ABC by Eric Wengert, a graduate student at Mississippi State University.

The bird data were derived from a variety of sources, including ABC's list of the 500 most Important Bird Areas in the U.S., the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Critical habitat designated by FWS as authorized by the Endangered Species Act was downloaded from the FWS website.

Site boundaries are either provided by existing federal or other GIS layers, or produced by ABC using the best available data, maps, and expert staff opinion. Boundaries for Key Habitat Areas are based on greatest breeding densities from Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) maps combined with expert staff opinion. For the few Red WatchList species where BBS data were unavailable, entire species range boundaries were used.

 

Whooping Crane, Connie Barr/Shutterstock

Red Areas: Critically Important

Areas marked in red on our map are crucial migratory routes and breeding habitat, wildlife refuges, and parks, which should be avoided at all costs. These areas include:

  • Important Bird Areas with congregations of 500,000 or more migratory birds at some point during the year.
  • Important Bird Areas for the rarest WatchList birds  — or those that have very specific and limited habitat requirements and/or are especially likely to be vulnerable to wind-related mortality or habitat impacts.
  • Critical Habitat designated for bird species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
  • Important habitat for bird species listed under the ESA for which ESA Critical Habitat has not yet been designated.
  • The highest-importance “bottleneck areas” for migrant birds, such as those where 500,000 or more birds are present seasonally.

To view existing (asterisk) and proposed (star) turbines in “Critical Importance” areas, download the Google map file.

Ferruginous Hawk, Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock

Orange Areas of High Importance: Use Caution

Solid orange on our map signifies Globally Important Bird Areas. Areas shown in a tint of orange are one of the following:

  • Key Migration Corridors where bird risk will differ from season to season and may also differ from year to year among specific locations within the corridor.
  • Key Habitat Areas for birds on the Red WatchList plus both widespread eagle species and Ferruginous Hawk, where the species may not be present year round. Birds are likely to be most at risk from wind development where their optimal habitat is found within the tinted area.
  • Marine Important Bird Areas where bird usage is also seasonal.

Some wind development might be possible within some of these areas if seasonal shutdowns during migration are feasible, or if micro-siting can enable the key habitat areas to be completely avoided.

To view existing (asterisk symbol) and proposed (star symbol) turbines in “High Importance” areas, click download a Google map file.