by Dee Dokken, Former Conservation Chair
The following comments were drafted by our former Conservation Chair to Planning and Zoning regarding zoning siting guidelines for renewable energy in Columbia. The board voted to support and send the comments.
To: Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission
The National Audubon Society and our local group strongly support properly sited photovoltaic solar power that avoids, minimizes, or mitigates impacts to birds and their habitat and is carried out in accordance with federal laws, like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
We are happy to see that the purposes for the ordinance include “To minimize impact to environmentally sensitive areas, wildlife, and wildlife habitat.”
As with most renewable energy sources, the benefits to birds by reducing carbon emissions outweigh other concerns, as long as the installations are built with care. Large solar installations must be properly sited to avoid disrupting bird habitat, and to minimize the chances that birds collide with the solar panels and associated infrastructure, like transmission lines and substations. (Rooftop solar is ecologically ideal because it doesn’t disrupt any habitat, but rather makes use of already-built space that would otherwise not go to productive use.)
It’s good that the proposed ordinance requires an Environmental Assessment by a Qualified Professional – but we would like to see more details about how someone would be deemed qualified for this job. We would also like the regulations to explicitly state that there will be consultation with MDC, DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The application should also conform to the Nature Conservancy “Site Renewables Right” interactive online map. It has received support from a diverse group representing business, research, conservation, and agricultural voices. The map synthesizes more than 100 layers of engineering, land-use, and wildlife data to help accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in a way that helps people and nature thrive.
“Renewable energy and transmission are critical to reducing emissions and slowing global temperature rise to ensure a cleaner future for both people and wildlife. The Site Renewables Right tool plays an important role in Audubon’s analysis of clean energy planning and individual projects to make sure that conservation and renewables go hand-in-hand.”
– Garry George, Director of Clean Energy Initiative, National Audubon Society
Dee Dokken for the Columbia Audubon Society