DENVER – In many ways, AWEA’s siting workshop was defined by someone who was not here. Several times during the two-day meeting, speakers began their presentation with a tribute to Andy Linehan, the siting specialist with Iberdrola Renewables who died recently. (They also flashed a picture on the huge screens in the hotel ballroom.)
Rich Rayhill of Ridgeline Energy called Linehan “the Atticus Finch of the wind industry,” referring to the attorney-hero in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Linehan’s principled, straightforward approach to solving siting problems will shape how the industry deals with siting issues for years to come, Rayhill said.
Linehan’s approach was certainly evident in many of the sessions here, as speakers sketched out how the industry could deal with a wide range of siting issues, from radar, to endangered species, to wind’s impact on the “viewshed.” Gone are the days of toughing it out against opponents or ignoring their concerns until late in the game. Now the buzzwords are incidental take permits, habitat conservation plans, and conservation management systems.
“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” said to Jim Lindsay, Principal Biologist for FPL Energy. Michael Brennan, an attorney with Holland and Hart LLP, urged developers to understand the potential impacts on wildlife and have solutions in mind before approaching permitting agencies about a project. “You have to have the information in hand before you open that door,” he said.
Laurie Jodziewicz, AWEA’s manager of siting policy, said the changed attitude toward siting issues is reflected in the increasing significance and specialization of industry forums such as the siting workshop itself.
“The importance of this workshop is that it advances the continuing education of our members about these issues. Things are happening so quickly that even the experts have trouble keeping up. This is a forum where people can get the best information available,” she said.
“We’re growing and maturing as an industry. Now we have permitting managers and environmental specialists in the companies.”
Jodziewicz also noted that in addition to helping permitting managers get projects through the process, industry siting forums target those who look at these issues in a broader sense—those who are shaping how their companies should be handling these issues in the long term.”
That is something Andy Linehan would understand and applaud.