Tag Archives: renewable energy

Increased use of renewable energy is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Credit: USFWS.

Self-Empowered

Oct. 29, 2012: Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to an estimated 8.1 million individual locations in 17 states, as far west as Michigan. Outages affected some areas for weeks, and often more remote locations – like those that tend to encompass wildlife refuges – remained without for longer or were forced to rely on whatever backup power generators they had on hand.

Power Line damage at Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge on Long Island. Credit: Todd Weston/USFWS.

Power Line damage at Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge on Long Island. Credit: Todd Weston/USFWS.

In the New York-New Jersey region, even some facilities that had generators found themselves faced with unexpected challenges like post-hurricane fuel rationing. This lasted an average of two weeks in the metro area and limited power supply, in many cases, to however much fuel had already been stockpiled. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Staff from the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, N.J. (only 25 miles from Times Square) found themselves driving as far as Pennsylvania to buy diesel for their generators. Other Fish and Wildlife refuges suffered in darkness for days after the super storm as well, including the Canaan Valley refuge in West Virginia, which was buried in over three feet of wet snow—a condition that did nothing to help keep power lines up in the region.

In response to extreme circumstances like those that occurred in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, backup and solar power system installations are planned for 18 U.S. Fish and Wildlife facilities throughout the Northeast region, including 17 refuges and the National Conservation Training Center in Shepardstown, West Virginia. The power projects form a unique subset of the Service’s Sandy recovery efforts—one that focuses keenly on resilience and preparation for projected future storms. They represent a substantial investment by the U.S. Department of the Interior in reliable emergency resources, and reaffirm its commitment to increasing federal facilities’ utilization of renewable energy sources.

After initially contracting out design work for a few planned power systems in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, Service engineers Mark Orton and Chuck Gess were tapped from within in an effort to speed up design and approval processes and save taxpayer dollars. The decision proved to be a good one, and now the power projects are nearing something of a critical mass, with many locations looking at installation by the summer of 2014.

Backup generators and photovoltaic solar power systems will be installed this year at 17 national wildlife refuges and the National Conservation Training Center.

Backup generators and photovoltaic solar power systems will be installed this year at 17 national wildlife refuges and the National Conservation Training Center.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facility management specialist Kevin Ortyl, sites equipped with backup and solar power proved invaluable in the aftermath of the super storm.

“Those stations that had backup power during Hurricane Sandy, including those at Long Island and Rhode Island refuges, were a great resource for their local communities,” says Ortyl. “Their headquarters and offices were used to coordinate emergency responses, provide logistical support, make phone calls and even offer cooked meals and showers.”

Increased use of renewable energy is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Credit: USFWS.

Increased use of renewable energy is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Credit: USFWS.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems also represent an important part of the Service’s mission, he says.

“Solar PV and the need for alternative energy have always been important to FWS. The more we are off the grid and can lessen our carbon footprint, the better, and installing more solar PV is an ongoing opportunity to achieve this. Using a renewable resource such as the sun aids in our continuing effort to tread lightly.”

In addition to reducing the carbon output of Service facilities, solar PV will also save taxpayer dollars. At the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland, solar PV systems that Mark Orton designed are being installed at two buildings, and between them will save the refuge an estimated $6,210 in annual utility bills. Gess says that the systems he’s been designing will offset 40 percent of a building’s load (on average), though at least one PV system at Rhode Island’s Beane Point will provide 100 percent of its needs and will be totally off-grid.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working to repair and restore public lands on the Atlantic coast since Hurricane Sandy impacted them in October of 2012. To learn more about the Service’s ongoing efforts to facilitate habitat recovery and build coastal resilience that helps protect communities, please visit http://www.fws.gov/hurricane/sandy.

 

Closeup of an American oystercatcher. Credit: Pam Loring, UMass

New study following Atlantic seabirds to help siting of wind turbines

An American oystercatcher released.

By following Atlantic seabirds, federal agencies will obtain important information on bird movement and migration. Here a researcher from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, a study collaborator, releases an American oystercatcher with a backpack-style VHF (very high frequency). Credit: Pamela Loring/USFWS.

Most of this post is from an article by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management‘s Jim Woehr and Marjorie Weisskohl, originally published in the May/June 2013 edition of ECO magazine. We are managing the study, which is funded by BOEM and led by the University of Massachusetts.

University of Massachusetts student Pam Loring is the principal investigator for the study (see a post written by her last year). Photo courtesy Pam Loring.

University of Massachusetts student Pam Loring is the principal investigator for the study (see a post written by her last year). Photo courtesy Pam Loring.

In making decisions on where to permit construction of offshore Atlantic wind turbines, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is engaged with offshore wind energy permitting as well) will need information on the movements of priority bird species such as common terns and American oystercatchers up and down the east coast, from Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound south throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

The movement patterns of these two species are not well documented and, although they are not protected under the Endangered Species Act, they are species of high concern.

To help fill the information gap, BOEM recently awarded a $292,000 study to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to research the movements of these birds over the next 12 to 18 months using VHF (very high frequency) backpack transmitters.

Biologist Caleb Spiegel working on New Providence Island. Credit: USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Caleb Spiegel is heading out this week with Pam this week to capture and tag American oystercatchers at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Caleb says, “The study, which our migratory bird program helped design, will test the ability of cutting edge technology, called NanoTags, to track offshore movements of the birds off southeast Cape Cod and Nantucket, with possible expansion of the work pending success of what is essentially a pilot season. Credit: USFWS

The Service, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts, will capture up to 15 American oystercatchers and 75 common terns during the nesting season, and will attach external backpack VHF NanoTag transmitters that send signals to receiving stations in and around Nantucket and southeastern Cape Cod.

Because the common tern in Nantucket Sound is commonly found in mixed flocks with the endangered roseate tern, the common tern could serve as a surrogate for that endangered species in future research.

Information gathered will improve BOEM’s ability to discriminate between sites potentially suitable for wind energy development and sites that are unsuitable because of local activity of birds of high conservation concern.

The study is scheduled for completion in 2014. For more information, read the BOEM study plan (p. 175).

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