study of utility scale wind projects ordered by the U.S. Congress is
entering the final phase of deliberations before a draft version is
written by its committee later this summer.
The "Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy
Projects" was convened last year by the National Research Council
(NRC), of which the National Academy of Science (NAS) is the charter
"The study will consider adverse and
beneficial effects, including impacts on landscapes, viewsheds,
wildlife, habitats, water resources, air pollution, greenhouse gases,
materials-acquisition costs and other impacts," the NAS says in its
The study was ordered by a congressional
mandate last year, when it was added to a budget bill in the spring of
2005, promoted by West Virginia Representative Alan B. Mollohan.
The remaining panel of 16 experts will
convene in a closed meeting later this month, after conducting public
forums and accepting comments from stakeholders since last September.
The session will be the fifth and final meeting of the panel.
The information-gathering period of the
study is theoretically open for the rest of the summer, but the
committee would have to receive genuinely significant new evidence -
currently unexpected or unlikely - for it to have a significant impact
on the work that will have been done up to that point, according to NAS
The committee was originally formed in the
spring of 2005 and was given 20 months to complete its work. It has
held hearings in Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. Tours of wind
farms were conducted in California and West Virginia. Testimony was
given by wind advocates and opponents during the process.
The July meeting, to be held in Woods Hole,
Mass., may be closed, but the committee is still accepting information
from interested parties for a few weeks, according to David Policansky,
the responsible staff officer for the NAS who is coordinating the
The group is entering the final phase of
its work, and the committee is mandated to have its report done by the
end of the year. The remaining work of the panel essentially is writing
a draft document, a peer review and incorporating comments into a final
draft. A public document is expected to be released within six months.
The committee is supposed to wrap up this
phase of its work by September 5, followed by peer-review by a panel of
two referees that has yet to be named. Those comments are to be
received by November, with a final document to be written after that.
The referees are people who have not yet
been involved in this process.
"We will find people from institutions that
don't have a conflict," Policansky says.
Generally, one is chosen from the NAS and another comes from outside
Policansky says it is not uncommon for the
national academies to be asked to study questions about industries that
do not have decades of history or extensive networks of academics.
"Wind may be an area where there are not
[relatively] a lot of experts to draw from, but it is not unusual for
the NRC to be asked to put together a larger pool of the best experts
in the industry," he says.
The panel that has been working since last
year is composed of academics from various disciplines from throughout
the U.S., an environmental attorney, a Danish wind energy expert and a
That original panel has lost two members
since its creation. One person who was unable to devote enough time to
the effort for professional reasons was excused. A wind advocate from a
nonprofit corporation who subsequently accepted a job with a wind
developer left the panel because of the apparent conflict of interest
that it posed.
The NAS dates to 1863, created by Congress
during the Civil War, to provide advice to the government on matters
concerning science and technology. In 1916, the NRC was created as the
Policansky says the document will be
released as soon as practicable on the NAS Web site, with only modest
edits left to be made before the final version is published in early