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Cautious but Committed: Moving Toward Adaptive Planning and Operation Strategies for Renewable Energy’s Wildlife Implications


Wildlife planning for renewable energy must cope with the uncertainties of potential wildlife impacts. Unfortunately, the environmental policies which instigate renewable energy and those which protect wildlife are not coherently aligned—creating a green versus green dilemma. Thus, climate mitigation efforts trigger renewable energy development, but then face substantial barriers from biodiversity protection instruments and practices. This article briefly reviews wind energy and wildlife interactions, highlighting the lively debated effects on bats. Today, planning and siting of renewable energy are guided by the precautionary principle in an attempt to carefully address wildlife challenges. However, this planning attitude creates limitations as it struggles to negotiate the aforementioned green versus green dilemma. More adaptive planning and management strategies and practices hold the potential to reconcile these discrepancies to some degree. This adaptive approach is discussed using facets of case studies from policy, planning, siting, and operational stages of wind energy in Germany and the United States, with one case showing adaptive planning in action for solar energy as well. This article attempts to highlight the benefits of more adaptive approaches as well as the possible shortcomings, such as reduced planning security for renewable energy developers. In conclusion, these studies show that adaptive planning and operation strategies can be designed to supplement and enhance the precautionary principle in wildlife planning for green energy.

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We would like to thank California Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird and Deputy Secretary of Climate Change Ann Chan, for providing comments regarding the DRECP. The review section on bats was compiled as part of research supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy on the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag. Roel May and two anonymous referees provided valuable comments that helped to improve this article.

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Köppel, J., Dahmen, M., Helfrich, J. et al. Cautious but Committed: Moving Toward Adaptive Planning and Operation Strategies for Renewable Energy’s Wildlife Implications. Environmental Management 54, 744–755 (2014).

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