Wind power directly combats wildlife's biggest threat -- climate change

When scientists look at the biggest threats to wildlife, they tell us there's no ambiguity about the number one danger: climate change.

We're told the planet's plants and animals face a stunning array of changes, coming at them so quickly they have no time to adapt. And that the only way to address this looming blow to biodiversity is to eliminate the problem's scientifically-proven root cause: air pollution.

And yet, the modern world requires an abundant amount of reliable, low-cost electricity to power our homes, schools and businesses.

Creating this electricity from wind is the low-cost solution to good stewardship of our planet while continuing our modern lifestyle. In honor of National Wildlife Day this week, when all points are considered, wind power is the lowest-impact source of energy, and thus the best for wildlife.

Continuing to grow wind power is the biggest, fastest, cheapest way to reduce harmful carbon pollution. In the United States, wind helps reduce 26 million cars' worth of carbon emissions every year. That number will only increase as wind displaces dirtier conventional power sources, and by 2030 wind could reduce electric sector carbon emissions by more than 20 percent. By 2050, wind could help avoid $400 billion in climate change damages.

As a zero-emission electricity source, wind also helps eliminate other air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, and it helps conserve billions of gallons of water every year.

Another reason wind energy is the lowest-impact electricity source is that over 95 percent of the land on wind farms remains undisturbed and available for other uses. And we don't need a lot of land to generate electricity. Consider that the Department of Energy's Wind Vision report says by 2050, wind could be the leading source of the country's electricity on less land than is occupied by one-third of our golf courses.

It is true that wind power has some limited impact on wildlife, but so do all energy sources. The industry has built a legacy of care for wildlife by doing more to identify, understand and develop solutions to offset any impacts than virtually any other industry in America.

For example, in 2015 AWEA adopted the first of its kind industry-wide voluntary best practice to reduce wind energy's impacts on bats. Experts predict this policy could reduce total bat impact levels by as much as 30 percent. The program involves wind facility operators voluntarily limiting the operations of turbines in low-wind speed conditions during the fall migration season, when research has shown bats are most at risk of collision.

Companies have implemented this plan fleet-wide to be good environmental stewards and ensure they generate power with as small an environmental footprint as possible. While instituting this best practice and a number of other standard operating practices at all of its wind farms to reduce wildlife impacts, one company alone has also completed 87 pre-construction wildlife surveys at its wind farms over the last 15 years.

Another wind developer was one of the first wind energy companies to develop a comprehensive wildlife protection plan, and trains employees at all of its wind farms in wildlife conservation techniques.

When compared to all other energy sources, a study by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) found that wind power's lifecycle impacts are the smallest. That's why organizations such as the National Wildlife Fund and the Audubon Society have called for more wind energy, in the hopes of reducing carbon pollution and lessening climate change.

We all have a responsibility to protect the natural world. We'll commit a grave injustice if future generations inherit a less rich earth because we were poor stewards. Continuing to expand the share of wind power in our electricity mix is one big way we can reduce air pollution and conserve wildlife.