Landscape-scale wildlife species richness metrics to inform wind and solar energy facility siting: An Arizona case study

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Abstract

The juxtaposition of wildlife and wind or solar energy facility infrastructure can present problems for developers, planners, policy makers, and management agencies. Guidance on siting of these renewable energy facilities may help identify potential wildlife-facility conflicts with species of regulatory or economic concern. However, existing spatial guidance usually does not consider all wildlife that might use a potential facility location or corridors for its servicing infrastructure. We illustrate an approach toward assessing potential wildlife-facility conflicts using readily available vertebrate habitat models. The U.S. Geological Survey's Gap Analysis Program (GAP) has developed spatial models of potential habitat for vertebrate species across the entire nation. To illustrate their applicability, we used GAP models to estimate richness of all native, terrestrial vertebrates within Arizona and for those vertebrates grouped by class or by sensitivity to the type of facility infrastructure. We examined the spatial overlap of high species richness of each group with agency-developed guidance used to inform facility-siting decisions and found that GAP-based richness mappings augmented existing guidance. As the GAP vertebrate habitat models are publicly available for the entire USA, use of these data can provide a coarse view of potential wildlife-facility conflicts and inform facility planning early in the process.

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Thomas, K. A., Jarchow, C. J., Arundel, T. R., Jamwal, P., Borens, A., & Drost, C. A. (2018). Landscape-scale wildlife species richness metrics to inform wind and solar energy facility siting: An Arizona case study. Energy Policy, 116, 145–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2018.01.052

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