American Wind Wildlife Institute database project moves ahead

10 July 2013 by John Anderson John Anderson

Centralized database will securely collect and analyze decades
of wind industry data to help reduce wildlife impacts


The American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) recently announced that its Research Information System (RIS), which is creating a centralized database to provide accurate analysis of wind energy wildlife impacts, has entered phase two of development.



Once completed, the group said, " ... the RIS will be the most comprehensive wind-wildlife data management tool available to help wind industry companies, government staff, and wildlife stakeholders evaluate the impact of operating wind projects. AWWI anticipates RIS analysis and reports will have broad value and implications from product design and application, to landscape and impact assessment, through project siting and turbine operations."

“The RIS will provide analysis with a high certainty of accuracy by including data from thousands of sites,” said AWWI Executive Director Abby Arnold. “For the first time, comprehensive and uniform data analysis will be compared across multiple regions and species in one database.”

AWEA passed a resolution in support of the RIS at a 2011 board meeting. When the phase two announcement was made, AWEA Interim CEO Rob Gramlich commented, “This is an important step forward in using the vast amounts of data collected by the industry over the past several decades.  It will help inform future siting decisions to further improve these practices, and aid in reducing the industry’s already low impacts on wildlife and their habitats. Creation of the RIS is critical to increasing transparency of the industry's data, while protecting the confidentiality of commercially or otherwise sensitive information. Putting this data to work will enable the wind industry to achieve our goal of relying on the best available science in decision-making."

The RIS is being built for AWWI with technical support from Oregon State University’s Northwest Alliance for Computational Science & Engineering (NACSE). A prototype pilot was completed in late 2012, and the system has successfully integrated post-construction wildlife fatality data and literature. Now, in phase two, AWWI is approaching companies to highlight system functionality, review measures to protect proprietary data/limit liability exposure, and begin data collection. Following data collection, AWWI will select independent analysts to analyze the data.

Post-launch, the RIS will produce scientific reports and trend analysis to help answer queries about wind-wildlife impacts so government agencies, scientists, and conservationists can understand and predict wind-wildlife impacts, including:

- What is the overall avian and bat fatality rate at wind energy projects across the United States or by ecoregion, and what are fatality rates by species?
- Is there a significant correlation between fatality levels of a first and second year of fatality monitoring at individual projects?
- How do fatality rates compare among different fatality searching methods and different estimators, holding other variables as constant as possible?

The RIS will pioneer web-to-database interfaces on wind-wildlife data while ensuring one company will never see another’s proprietary data, AWWI said. “Our priority is to build the confidence of wind industry data providers and show that by giving access to anonymous data, we can securely service the needs of wind developer companies, analysts, and regulatory agencies,” said Dr. Cherri Pancake, NACSE Director.

AWWI’s RIS Task Force has ensured the interests of both industry and conservation stakeholders are represented, and all efforts are being guided by input from the RIS Task Force’s wind industry members.

AWWI will manage access to data in the RIS, and access by different users will be controlled through four independent portals:

- A company portal enabling individual wind energy companies to view only their data to validate data entry.
- An analyst portal open only to AWWI-selected analysts. Data visible in this portal will be anonymous, and no data will be linked to one company or project.
- A curator portal for AWWI to maintain the documents database.
- A public portal providing limited access to a searchable database of wind-wildlife literature and reports.

This multi-level database approach will allow AWWI to securely pull together data from wind industry companies and to share trend analysis with different groups who may have conflicting goals.

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The American Wind Wildlife Institute combines the power of science with the voice of collaboration to facilitate development of wind energy that protects wildlife and reduces environmental impacts. AWWI was founded in 2008 by the wind industry, science/conservation agencies, and environmental organizations as a forum to solve the most challenging wind wildlife issues and responsibly promote wind energy. For more information visit www.AWWI.org.

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