Ramboll conducted a critical issues review to help a US client evaluate the viability of 10 sites for the development of onshore wind farms. Critical issues may pose hurdles to siting, permitting or construction. Of particular concern for onshore wind farms are ecological (flora and fauna habitat or protected areas), hydrological, cultural (including tribal lands) and regulatory approval issues.
Completed in about six weeks’ time, the review addressed potential sites covering approximately 800 total square miles in the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Washington.
Ramboll ecologists and wildlife biologists used GIS analyses to identify the extent of wetlands and protected species habitat for each site. They then determined whether the presence of species or wetlands posed a significant hurdle to proposed wind development for each site.
The analysis addressed a number of issues that could potentially impact siting and permitting, among them:
Mapping potential habitat and evaluated site-specific species occurrence data to identify state and federally protected flora and fauna.
Identifying regulated waters by mapping hydrological, landcover and topographical data.
Evaluating natural resources and site conditions against local, state and federal regulations.
Specifically, the project team relied on integrated information from several spatial data bases to identify species and wetland resources (eg USGS National Land Cover Land Classification Data and USFWS Critical Habitat Mapping). The certified ecologist on the team synthesized the spatial data to identify habitat for protected species, migratory pathways for birds, and specific site features such as ridge lines or caves where birds or bats might concentrate. Waters of the U.S., regulated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), were mapped based on National Wetland Inventory and National Hydrography Datasets.