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Audubon supports properly sited renewable energy. But as the country ramps up its renewable energy portfolio, properly sited transmission lines to carry (properly sited) renewable energy, often generated in remote locations, to population centers is just as key.
High-voltage transmission lines typically require a 250-300 foot right-of-way width within a 2-mile-wide transmission corridor along the entire length of the project. The towers used to support the overhead transmission lines are usually 100-190 feet in height and span 900 to 1,500 feet apart (4-5 structures per mile), depending on structure type, terrain, span and line crossings. In addition, there are substation converters and construction and maintenance access roads approximately 30 feet wide.
Working with industry, and with local, regional, and federal decision-makers, Audubon provides important guidance on how best to avoid bird and wildlife impacts from renewable installations. Our work to promote properly sited transmission corridors helps to ensure that Important Bird Areas and other habitats critical for the survival of bird populations and migratory species are protected.
Audubon's Eastern Transmission work tackles the densely populated east and mid-Atlantic regions. An important new GIS-based planning tool allows us to identify critical environmental areas and enable a more environmentally friendly approach to energy development in the eastern United States.
A majority of utility commissions currently lack ready access to the data that will enable smart front-end planning. As a result of Audubon's efforts, the utility commissions of the 39-state eastern interconnection will use Department of Energy's (DOE) important new planning tool to inform the siting of power generation and electric transmission facilities in a way that least impacts the surrounding habitats.
Audubon has also worked with utility commissions to assess where the greatest potential lies for deploying Smart Grid, demand response, energy efficiency, and distributed generation. This will be the first time that these no-build and low-build options are mapped out across the region.
In the months to come, Audubon will be working with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and DOE's Argonne National Laboratory to help direct early steps in the development of the GIS-based planning tool for identifying environmentally sensitive areas.
Audubon's Western Transmission work is complex as well, as the world-class wind and solar potential of the west collide with flyways, Important Bird Areas, endangered species like Whooping Cranes, and species of concern like the sage-grouse. Audubon Rockies' work on siting energy development projects in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho and Arizona involves partnerships and is focused on the following goals: avoid or minimize impacts to birds, wildlife and habitat.