Home > Property & Casualty > Dogs serve as accurate risk assessment tools for wind farms

Dogs serve as accurate risk assessment tools for wind farms

windDogAs wind energy continues to expand across the U.S., some wind farm operators face increasing scrutiny from environmental groups to comply with federal laws protecting the environment. While generating clean, affordable energy, wind turbines are also a potential hazard for many endangered species that live on or around the wind farms. Blade collisions and sudden drops in air pressure contribute to the death of more than 1.4 million types of bird and bat species. In recent years, several environmental and animal rights activists have filed several federal cases in the past few years against energy companies and wind farms, prompting the clean energy community to take a closer look at green energy and its impact on nature and wildlife.

In order to avoid negative attention and potential lawsuits against their projects, wind farm operators frequently assess the impact of their facilities on endangered species and take active measures to reduce the number of fatalities on the property. In order to do this, the use of detection dogs has helped researchers conduct post-construction studies and can serve as an accurate measuring tool for estimating the number of fatalities at each site. The dogs are specifically trained to assist in sniffing out dead carcasses that are often obscured by brush and grass or that have begun to decay.

Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is prohibited to kill or “take” endangered and threatened wildlife from a specific location. However, federal laws do allow wind farms to obtain “incidental take” permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which make allowances for a certain number of deaths per year as long as operators take active steps to protect the surrounding wildlife under the ESA. Using detection dogs to monitor bat and bird fatalities are a method wind farm operators use to comply with these rules.


Based on data from earlier field studies, human researchers have been less-accurate during detection for bird and bat species. Dogs, however, are much more successful at locating the dead animals. In a 2006 Portuguese wind farm study comparing dogs to humans, researchers found that the dogs found 96% of animals under grass and shrubs, while humans only found 20%.

However, the use of detection dogs at project sites can create additional exposures that owner operators need to consider. If dogs are going to be used at a project site, the owner operator needs to ensure their liability coverage will extend to bodily injury or property damage caused by the dog(s). If the service is provided by a third-party under contract, be sure and collect a certificate of insurance evidencing the coverage is in place and that you as the owner operator are included as an additional insured under their policy.

(photo credit: Mitchell Craig, Hawaii HCP Manager, Kahuku and Kawailoa Wind Power, First Wind)

About the Author

Charlie is a Vice President in the Renewable Energy Clean Technology Practice at William Gallagher Associates working with independent power developers, owner operators and manufacturers in the business of power generation. Click here to learn more about WGA’s Renewable Energy and Clean Tech Practice. 

617.646.0251 | CLong@wgains.com | Connect with Charlie on LinkedIn

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