Learn how clean, renewable wind energy from First Wind projects helps protect the environment.


Knowledge Base

Environmental Committment

Wind energy is both clean and renewable which helps offset two of the most damaging effects of conventional electricity generation - air pollution and natural resource depletion.  However, like any other form of development, construction of wind energy facilities does have impacts.  Utilizing our in-house team of environmental scientists, we consider habitat and wildlife impacts during every step of the development process - from initial planning to erecting turbines to constructing transmission lines. In addition to adherence to numerous local, state and federal permitting standards, First Wind develops innovative solutions to mitigate and manage environmental and habitat impacts.  

Protecting Desert Ecosystems at Milford Wind: Though often harsh, the desert ecosystem is also fragile, requiring extra care and special considerations when building a wind energy facility. Prior to the construction of our project in Milford, Utah, we consulted with a team of biologists to analyze the local habitat and minimize environmental impacts.  As just one example, in order to protect nine active raptor nests discovered in the vicinity of the site prior to construction,  we created a Raptor Action Plan, which included a monitoring and reporting program for known and new nests, and prescribed alternative construction methods. 

The KWP Habitat Conservation Plan: Preserving Hawaii’s unique environment was essential to First Wind when planning and building the Kaheawa Wind project on the island of Maui. Before construction, First Wind’s environmental surveys revealed that there were four threatened and endangered species living in the area: the Hawaiian Petrel, Newell’s Shearwater, Nene, and Hawaiian Hoary Bat. To minimize the impact construction would have on these species, First Wind worked with both the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan – the first of its kind for a wind project in the United States. The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) prescribes specific measures that will be implemented by First Wind to ensure that the project results in an overall benefit for the four species covered. Some examples include captive propagation and release of nene; protection of a seabird colony; and funding research to better understand the ecology of Hawaiian Hoary Bats. Thanks to that plan, Kaheawa Wind operates in harmony with the native plant and animal species of Maui, while providing a clean, renewable energy source to island residents. 

We are also implementing HCPs at our Kahuku and Kawailoa projects.
 
Clean Energy from a Brownfield: On the windy shores of Lake Erie, the abandoned remnants of a long-closed steel manufacturing plant sat in ruin. The land was useless to most other industries and the soil was too polluted with arsenic and semi-volatile organic compounds for the site to be easily reclaimed. However, the location had one major attribute that had been overlooked in the past: an excellent wind resource.
 
Before construction could begin, the site needed to be capped and stabilized to ensure it was safe for our workers. Our site reclamation experts conducted a detailed environmental assessment of the entire 1,100-acre site, and then placed 40,000 cubic yards of clean soil over the area to help protect wind farm workers from chemical contact. With the soil in place, First Wind graded the surface to improve drainage and reduce the potential for erosion.  Once we resolved the major threats to the area, we began re-vegetating the site with plants that would thrive on the windy lake shore. Today, Steel Winds generates over 50 million-kilowatt hours of clean electricity each year, enough to power 9,000 homes in New York. First Wind not only reclaimed a ruined environment, but transformed it into a symbol of economic and industrial rebirth.
 
Responsible siting in the Northeast: Whenever possible, we try to build projects in areas that have been previously disturbed. For instance, at our Stetson and Rollins projects in Washington County, Maine, both sites have been used for timber logging for many years.  The Mars Hill project in Mars Hill, Maine, is sited on the back side of a ski hill.  
 
In addition to careful siting, we have in place an extensive series of screening, analysis, and field tests we conduct both before and after we build a project. This includes extensive testing of vernal pools (where appropriate), wildlife surveys, bird and bat activity and more.  At our Sheffield project in Vermont, First Wind has sought to be as minimally invasive as possible by pioneering the use of narrow site roads and compact turbine pads, and by protecting local streams and groundwater through the installation of an extensive drainage system to clean water run-off and protect local habitat.
 

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Wind power helps safeguard our health and reduces our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

 

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