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Getting to 50 by '30, and Preserving Nature

Utility-scale wind and solar infrastructure can affect plant and wildlife habitat. (Sgt. bender/Wikimedia Commons)
Utility-scale wind and solar infrastructure can affect plant and wildlife habitat. (Sgt. bender/Wikimedia Commons)
August 22, 2016

NEW YORK – New York state has committed to getting 50 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030, and now conservation groups are creating tools to help make that happen.

The Clean Energy Standard was approved Aug. 1.

Cara Lee, senior conservation manager at the Nature Conservancy, says achieving the standard's renewable energy goal is critical for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it will require a rapid expansion of the state's renewable energy infrastructure.

"We recognize that that can have impacts on natural habitats, but we know that with planning and thought, it can be done in a way that minimizes those impacts," she states.

The Nature Conservancy is launching an initiative called Renewables on the Ground to facilitate good decision making for siting wind farms and large solar installations.

For example, Amanda Lefton, deputy policy director at the Nature Conservancy, points out that placing a large solar farm in an undeveloped area could affect plant and wildlife diversity and migratory routes.

"But if we did the appropriate planning up front, where are those other places that we can be siting utility scale solar to avoid that particular area, but go to maybe an already disturbed site?" she points out.

Working with other conservation groups and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Nature Conservancy has developed a Biodiversity and Wind Siting Mapping Tool.

According to Lee, it pulls together vital information about wildlife habitat and protected areas in New York state.

"At the same time, it has data on factors, which are important in terms of wind development,” she adds. “How good is the wind in any given location, how steep are the slopes?”

Lee says the map will help developers site renewable energy infrastructure throughout the state more efficiently, and with as little impact on nature as possible.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY