In 2007 Consumers Energy (Consumers) submitted its 25-year balanced energy plan to the Michigan Public Service Commission and made a commitment to double its renewable energy capacity. Consumers determined wind energy was the most economical and value-conscience approach to meeting their renewable energy goals. Consumers completed construction of the 105-megawatt (MW) Cross Winds Energy Park (Cross Winds) in 2015.
Wind energy has advantages over other sources of energy, but it also has the potential to negatively affect wildlife through collisions with turbines and through loss and fragmentation of habitat during the development process. To minimize potential impacts, ECT worked with Consumers to conduct a comprehensive ecological assessment of Cross Winds.
ECT consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and developed a report based on the tiered approach presented in the USFWS land-based wind energy guidelines to assess collision fatalities and other potential impacts to species that may be affected. The report provides a tiered framework for assessing risk to wildlife through a preliminary site evaluation, site characterization, field studies of potentially affected species and their habitats, and post-construction studies to assess fatality risks.
ECT evaluated data from more than two years of pre-construction wildlife studies, including assessments of short-eared owl use, bald eagle use, songbird migration, songbird breeding, large bird migration, and overall bird use of the project as it relates to distance from the Saginaw Bay shoreline. ECT incorporated additional studies to evaluate the presence/absence, abundance, and movement of bats in the project area.
ECT designed the analysis within the tiered ecological assessment to evaluate potential impacts and risk of collision fatalities prior to construction and aid in the siting and placement of individual turbines. Following the analysis provided in the report, ECT assisted Consumers in developing construction guidelines and development setbacks designed to minimize ecological impacts and reduce avian and bat fatalities. After the project was built, ECT continued to support Consumers by conducting bird and bat mortality monitoring.