A Visual Impact Assessment Process for Wind Energy Projects

Visual impacts associated with wind development projects are often among the issues of greatest concern for surrounding property owners and the community. A guide issued by the Clean Energy States Alliance, A Visual Impact Assessment Process for Wind Energy Projects, provides an effective and objective aesthetic impact assessment review methodology that provides clear guidance for developers, planners, and regulatory decision makers and also ensures the protection of important scenic and cultural resources.

“As wind development continues to grow throughout the United States, many state and local governments are in the process of creating or revising their evaluation processes for assessing visual impacts of wind energy projects,” states the report. “There is little consistency as to what information should be submitted by a wind developer to the relevant regulatory review body. The basis for evaluating and determining the degree of visual impacts presented by proposed wind projects is often poorly understood by regulators, developers, and the general public. Establishment of clear and consistent visual impact review processes will assist developers and regulators alike and provide greater public confidence in the integrity and fairness of regulatory decision making for wind project siting.”

A Visual Impact Assessment Process for Wind Energy Projects is available on the CESA website.

Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) is a nonprofit coalition of state clean energy funds working together to develop and promote clean energy technologies and markets. 

Is Wind Electricity Right for You?

Bergey Excel-S wind turbine
The Bergey Excel-S is a popular small wind turbine.

Home Power magazine publishes an annual Wind Turbine Guide for considering and planning a wind energy electric system for home, farm, or business. The 2011 guide "Is Wind Electricity Right for You?" covers site evaluation, towers, and turbine choices. Wind energy experts Ian Woofenden and Mick Sagrillo review 24 small wind turbines with a detailed table of specifications along with wind installer survey results.

“Wind electricity is an enticing technology, drawing attention to itself with every turn of the blade,” states the Home Power article. “But for the uneducated consumer, wind power can end up being the most disappointing of renewable energy technologies. This is not because it’s a hopeless endeavor to capture the energy in the wind, but because it’s a difficult job. Unfortunately, the technology also seems to attract more backyard ‘inventors’ and hucksters than other renewable technologies.”

The complete article “Is Wind Electricity Right for You?” can be downloaded as an Adobe Reader document from the Home Power website.

Factsheet on Wind Turbine Interactions with Birds and Bats

The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative has released an updated factsheet summarizing the interactions between wind turbines and bird and bat populations in the U.S. The information is divided into three categories: conclusions that have broad consensus, ideas that have been presented but not broadly supported yet, and areas where knowledge gaps remain.

This factsheet is only a summary of existing literature and studies and does not provide new scientific analysis or information about these interactions. Also provided is an extensive and detailed listing of citations used in the factsheet.

Visit the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative's website to learn more and to download the factsheet. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wind Turbine Guidelines

In 2007 the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee was established to provide advice and recommendations on developing effective measure to avoid or minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats related to land-based wind energy facilities. The Committee is comprised of 22 members representing federal, state, and tribal governments, wildlife conservation organizations, and the wind industry. 

The Committee's guidelines are founded on a "tiered approach" for assessing potential impacts to wildlife and their habitats. This allows developers to identify potential problems at each stage of development. To find contact information and to download the guidelines and recommendations, visit the USFWS Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee homepage

Economic Development Impacts of Community Wind Projects: A Review and Empirical Evaluation

“Economic Development Impacts of Community Wind Projects: A Review and Empirical Evaluation” by E. Lantz and S. Tegen, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in April 2009.

Community wind projects have long been touted (both anecdotally and in the literature) to increase the economic development impacts of wind projects, but most analyses of community wind have been based on expected results from hypothetical projects. This report provides a review of previous economic development analyses of community wind projects and compares these projected results with empirical impacts from projects currently in operation.

Read the Report

Advanced Renewable Tariffs for Wisconsin Analysis and Case Study

"Advanced Renewable Tariffs for Wisconsin: Analysis and Case Study" was prepared by the University of Wisconsin Madison Energy Analysis & Policy Certificate Capstone Project.

ART is a policy which aims to encourage customer-sited development of renewable energy. An ART is unique because a regular customer becomes the producer (who we will refer to as a Renewable Power Producer (RPP)), and the electric utility becomes the customer. This is different than net metering and a RPS; net metering is essentially running the kWh meter backwards-thus, the value for a kWh of renewable electricity is equal to the retail rate-while a RPS establishes a quantity obligation.

There are many ways to establish energy payments for an ART. The various methods are primarily based on:

  1. Generation cost, which provides a payment based on the cost of the technology
  2. Avoided cost, which sets the payment based on displacing fossil fuel-based generation
  3. Premium rates, which establish energy payment at a specified level above the retail rate for electricity

This analysis uses a generation cost approach-generation cost is the most common form and is consistent with the Governor‘s Task Force on Global Warming-to determine energy payments for each renewable technology.

FITness Testing - Exploring myths about feed-in tariff policies

The US currently generates close to nine percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower. During the past several years, renewable electricity markets have surged as a result of new federal and state policies. Thirty-five states and Washington, DC, have established renewable energy targets designed to increase the amount of renewable electricity in utility portfolios. Despite the impressive amount of new policies that have been implemented, many policy makers in the US are evaluating how to further accelerate renewable energy growth. As can be seen in the graph below, renewable electricity generation has declined since a peak at over 12 % in the 1990s because of decreases in hydropower output. The US will need to dramatically increase the amount of installed renewable energy capacity in order to surpass recent historical highs, improve energy security, create new jobs, and address the growing risks of climate change. Since the start of this decade, non-hydro resources, especially wind and solar energy, have grown rapidly in key state markets (Sherwood, 2009; Wiser & Bolinger, 2009). The question remains, however: is current growth fast enough to transition to a more sustainable energy supply and meet the threat of climate change?

Excerpt from “FITness Testing: Exploring the myths and misconceptions about feed-in tariff policies,” published by the World Future Council.

Download the report document and visit the web site in the links below.


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