Climate change presents an existential threat to all living things. The transition to renewable energy is playing a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions but delivering a sustainable future means that the rapid expansion of renewable energy infrastructure needed to protect the earth’s atmosphere needs to occur in ways that conserve wildlife and habitat.
Founded in 2008, the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) has been instrumental in advancing the science regarding how wind energy affects wildlife and habitat. Today, the organization is re-launching itself as the Renewable Energy Wildlife Institute (REWI, pronounced “ree-Y”), to reflect a newly expanded scope that now includes solar.
“Solar is a vital renewable energy solution to reduce carbon emissions that threaten wildlife, so this is a significant and timely change,” remarked Jim Murphy, Director, Legal Advocacy with National Wildlife Federation and Chair of REWI’s Board of Directors. “REWI’s expertise in facilitating collaborative, science-based solutions to wind-wildlife challenges makes it uniquely well-positioned to answer similar, pressing questions about the potential impacts of solar on wildlife.”
“Demand for renewables continues to grow, and the ambitious climate goals of the Biden Administration underscore the need for our industry to respond,” said Christi Calabrese, Director of Permitting and Environmental Affairs for EDP Renewables North America and Vice-Chair of REWI’s Board of Directors. “As the number of wind and solar installations across the country increases, it’s essential that we understand any potential impacts on ecosystems and their inhabitants in a timely manner so that we can develop new sites thoughtfully and responsibly.”
REWI is a groundbreaking independent nonprofit that works to solve renewable energy-wildlife challenges through sound science and collaboration. Specifically, REWI conducts and supports scientific research to better understand the risks solar and wind energy may pose to wildlife and develop solutions to avoid, minimize, and offset those impacts. The organization leverages strong partnerships across stakeholders in the renewable energy industry, conservation and science communities, and wildlife management agencies to ensure that renewable energy and wildlife can both thrive.
“We need to be guided by the best available science as we integrate tremendous amounts of wind and solar across our country,” said Andrew Wetzler, Director of Programs of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “REWI is both a critical forum for collaboratively deciding what questions science needs to answer and a driver getting the research done. We look forward to continuing to work with REWI to deliver meaningful results that will have positive impacts in the real world.”
The U.S. renewables industry has expanded dramatically in recent years and is expected to maintain brisk growth for at least the next few decades. Achieving the Biden Administration goals of a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 will require a rapid increase in the installed renewable capacity nationwide.
“The U.S. renewable energy industry must accelerate the pace at which clean generation is built, but this development has to be guided by a commitment to long-term sustainability,” said Kevin Smith, Chief Executive Officer (Americas) at Lightsource bp. “We’re proud to be part of REWI, which is advancing the science needed to answer complex questions about how this expansion can occur in tandem with conserving the natural environment.”
“I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to serve as a member of the Board of this organization and see firsthand their commitment to understanding and developing solutions based on shared values and common goals,” said Brad Loveless, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. “I look forward to supporting REWI’s growth and continuing to contribute to the intentional, hard work of advancing renewables while we conserve species and natural landscapes. Doing this demands frequent conversations between fish and wildlife agencies and renewables developers, rather than occasional collisions.”
“I firmly believe that REWI will play a pivotal role in making this growth possible,” said Abby Arnold, REWI’s Executive Director. “Renewable energy is central to the fight against climate change, and the level of buildout that’s needed can’t happen unless we have the knowledge to inform choices about the best ways to balance the desire for carbon-free power with conservation goals. REWI provides science we can stand on when making those critical decisions.”