SEATTLE–Neither national economic woes nor Seattle's legendary moisture dampened turnout at this year's AWEA Project Siting Workshop–more than 380 are attending, slightly higher than last year's turnout. The traffic at the exhibit booths is reported to be heavy and very engaged, and the networking during coffee breaks has been noisy and intense.
The workshop agenda reflects the Northwest location and the prominence of renewables in the region; it includes discussion of specific siting challenges and opportunities in all of the key Northwest states. The workshop's program chair, Suzanne Leta Liou, senior policy advocate at the Renewable Northwest Project, based in Portland, Ore., and very active throughout the region, continues the Northwest theme.
Finally, there are the animals–bats, ground squirrels, sage grouse, among others, all impacted by wind farms to some degree. Edward Arnett, co-director of programs at Bat Conservation International, gave a riveting status report on the research now underway to determine whether there are effective ways to reduce bat mortality at wind farms. The study, now undergoing peer review, will be released later in the year.
Other human speakers highlighted the importance of monitoring and measuring the impact of wind farms on ground squirrel habitats during the part of the year they are above ground; sage grouse warranted their own session at the workshop.
The point of all the sessions is to help those attending the workshop maneuver carefully through the ever-more-complex siting landscape as wind energy continues to grow.
As Chairwoman Leta Liou put it, “We are hoping to present a sense of the broad scope of regulatory, permitting and community challenges to siting wind projects, in the Northwest in particular. One thing that attendees will hear consistently is the critical importance of engaging with stakeholders—state agencies, permitting authorities, landowners, and others–early and often, and the need to continue that engagement after construction. “