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Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects
mental components (e.g., wildlife), and for the different purposes of guiding planning versus guiding regulatory review. We also draw on the experience of other countries where guidelines for wind-energy development have a longer history.
Some guidelines are for proactive planning of wind-energy development. “Planning” is an ambiguous term, however. Within the context of wind-energy development, it can refer to highly structured processes that carry considerable legal weight and result in identifying certain areas as suitable for wind turbines (as in the Denmark example below). Alternatively, it can refer to loosely structured processes that are largely advisory and result in criteria for evaluating the favorable and unfavorable attributes of prospective sites (as in the Berkshire example below). In addition, planning for wind-energy development may take a broad view of the incremental impacts of multiple wind-energy projects in a region, or it may take a narrow view and focus primarily on a single project. And, geographic scales for planning range from the national to the local level.
Other guidelines focus on regulation. They prescribe for regulatory authorities reviewing wind-energy developments what procedures should be followed, what kinds of information should be examined, and what criteria should be used to make permitting decisions. Many guidelines mingle the two functions of planning and project-specific regulatory review. In practice, planning guidelines that suggest where and how wind-energy development should be done may become criteria for regulatory permitting decisions if projects inconsistent with planning guidelines are rejected.
The United States is in the early stages of learning how to plan for and regulate wind energy. The experiences of other countries, where debates over wind energy have been going on for much longer, can be instructive for bringing U.S. frameworks to maturity. For example, Britain and Australia have dealt with controversies about wind-energy development by working with stakeholder groups, including opponents of wind energy, to develop “Best Practice Guidelines” (BWEA 1994; AusWEA 2002). BWEA (British Wind Energy Association) and AusWEA (Australian Wind Energy Association) were convinced that “they needed to become more transparent and more engaged with the public than any other industry” (Gipe 2003). In Ireland, the Minister of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government released an extensive “Planning Guidelines” document on wind energy in June 2006 (DEHLG 2006). This document advises local authorities on planning for wind energy in order to ensure consistency throughout the country in identifying suitable locations and in reviewing applications for wind-energy projects. Not only are these guidelines prescriptive—that is, they express procedures and approaches that should be taken—but they also are linked to other government policies.