Toolkit will help municipalities balance renewable energy development and natural resource conservation

With the tremendous opportunities provided by solar and wind energy come potential conflicts with Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat. Maine Audubon is committed to striking a balance between new renewable energy development and natural resource conservation.

To help, Maine Audubon’s ecology and policy experts have created a suite of resources to guide developers, municipalities, and decision-makers toward realizing the benefits of renewable energy, while locating and operating projects with wildlife and habitat in mind.

Maine Audubon’s Renewable Siting Toolkit is available at maineaudubon.org/advocacy/renewable-energy/ and includes:

Our interactive Renewable Energy Siting Tool is a GIS map that aggregates natural resource layers (many of which are not otherwise publicly available) and other siting constraints for solar and onshore wind projects, while indicating which areas are a good fit for new development and which areas to be avoided.

Model Site Plan Regulations and Conditional Use Permits to support solar energy development in Maine municipalities. Several Maine municipalities have already used these models in drafting their own ordinances.

Best Practices for Low Impact Solar Siting, Design, and Maintenance. This document instructs how to avoid and minimize impacts to natural and agricultural resources.

Maine is in the midst of a new era of renewable energy development, spurred by legislation that requires 80 percent of Maine’s electricity to come from renewable resources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. These targets are amongst the most ambitious in the country and are necessary to stave off the worst impacts from climate change.

The solar industry has responded by proposing many dozens of solar projects across the state, often at a rate faster than willing but uncertain municipalities are able to prepare for this type of development. Many Maine towns are looking for guidance to help them support renewable energy while still protecting their natural and agricultural resources. Towns including Freeport and China have already passed ordinances based on Maine Audubon’s model.

“Like any new land use or development, if not thoughtfully sited or operated, new renewable energy development could displace wildlife habitat and otherwise unduly impact Maine’s natural resources,” said Sarah Haggerty, Maine Audubon’s conservation biologist/GIS manager, who led the creation of the Renewable Siting Tool. “These materials can help towns support green energy and protect their environment.”

“There is no time to waste,” said Eliza Donoghue, Maine Audubon’s advocacy director. “New renewable energy development is critical to combating climate change and supports good jobs and lower energy costs, too. But we must be thoughtful about where we build these projects and how we manage them.”