Frequently Asked Questions about Wildlife Directive for Alberta Wind Energy Projects
The Alberta government released an updated policy to guide wildlife and wildlife habitat application considerations for wind energy projects in Alberta on January 27, 2017. This policy is titled, "Wildlife Directive for Alberta Wind Energy Projects" and can be found at:
The following outlines answers to frequently asked questions about the Directive.
Wind Industry and Wind Energy Facilities
Who regulates the wind industry?
- The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) is the regulator for all electricity generators, including the wind and solar industries.
- The AUC is an independent, quasi-judicial agency of the province of Alberta. The AUC, in its Facilities mandate, regulates power plants to ensure they are sited, constructed, altered, operated and decommissioned in the public interest, considering the social, economic and environmental effects.
- The information requirements for a wind or solar application are outlined in AUC Rule 007: Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, Industrial System Designations and Hydro Developments and in AUC Rule 012: Noise Control.
Why are the Alberta government Wildlife Biologists involved in the review of wind energy facilities?
- Wind developments have both direct and indirect impacts on wildlife and wildlife habitat. These impacts can be categorized as:
- Direct mortality - wind facilities can directly cause mortalities to birds and bats, primarily by collisions or barotrauma (barotrauma refers to injuries caused by changes in air pressure).
- Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation - wind facilities result in direct habitat alterations which can directly impact habitat quality and quantity.
- Disturbance - recent research has indicated that avoidance of wind energy facilities by wildlife increases threats to at-risk wildlife populations.
For more detailed information please refer to the online Directive found at:
What is the role of an Alberta government Wildlife Biologist in the review of wind energy facilities?
- The Directive focuses on avoiding key wildlife habitat and standard mitigation (for example: steps taken or tools used to reduce or avoid wildlife impacts) identified by the Alberta government.
- The proponent will conduct desktop siting work and pre-application wildlife surveys to determine the potential risk of the proposed development to wildlife.
- Avoidance and standard mitigation options are applied as necessary to reduce the risk of the development to wildlife and wildlife habitat.
- As stated in AUC Rule 007, a sign off of the application is required by the Alberta government's Wildlife Biologists for any wind applications. The Wildlife Biologist reviews that application and provides a referral letter outlining how consistent the project proposal is to the Directive. This letter should form part of the application to the AUC. If the applicant is unable to obtain a referral letter, or cannot agree to a mitigation plan with the Wildlife Biologist, the application must include details explaining the situation.
Wildlife Directive for Alberta Wind Energy Projects
Why was the Directive updated in April?
- A clerical error was identified in Appendix A of the Directive. To ensure consistency with Standards within the Directive, the error was corrected.
- After questions were received from clients as to the wetland classifications, these standards were updated to ensure clarity and a consistency.
What does the Directive apply to?
- The Directive applies to all new wind energy project applications that fall under AUC Rule 007.
- The Directive guides the Alberta government's review process.
Does the Directive apply to any other industry?
- No, the Directive is specific to the wind energy industry. A Directive for the solar energy process is in development.
- For wildlife guidelines, directives and processes that apply to other industrial activities contact your local Alberta government wildlife office or refer to our:
- Environment and Protected Areas web page
- Fisheries & Wildlife Management Area Contacts
Does the Directive replace the Alberta government Wildlife Guidelines for Alberta Wind Energy Projects (2011 Guidelines)?
- Yes, the Directive replaces the 2011 Guidelines.
- For wind energy projects that were initiated prior to the release of the Directive, there is a Grandfathering Administrative Procedure: Wind Energy Review Process that outlines whether your project will fall under the 2011 Guidelines or the Directive. For further information, see:
I already have an existing AUC approval under the 2011 Guidelines, but am seeking an amendment. If I am updating my wildlife review in preparation to amend my AUC approval, what Directive should I reference?
- Projects with existing AUC approval may use the 2011 Wildlife Guidelines for Alberta Wind Energy Projects.
- For more details please refer to:
Standards and Best Management Practices
What is the difference between the Standards and the Best Management Practices?
- Standards - provide siting, timing and site-related wildlife conservation requirements that the Alberta government considers must be met in the planning and development of a wind energy facility. All Standards in the Directive are preceded by the number 100 (for example: 100.1.4).
- Best Management Practices - provide information and considerations for the planning of wind energy facilities to support better conservation and protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat. All BMPs in the Directive are preceded by the number 200 (for example: 200.3.8).
What if my project does not meet a Standard as outlined in the Directive?
- The Standards outlined in the Directive must be adhered to unless there is a justified site-specific constraint that conflicts directly with the Standard.
- In these cases, the applicant must identify the issue, justify the rationale and propose alternative mitigation to the Alberta government.
- The Alberta government will review this proposed deviation and determine if the rationale and alternative mitigation will meet the intent of the Directive.
- The Alberta government will provide a response through the government's Referral Report that can be submitted as part of the application to the AUC. The AUC will assess the review by the government and any comments provided by the applicant in its public interest assessment.
- Projects that adhere to the Standards outlined in the Directive will move through the Alberta government's review process quickly as there will be fewer delays to deal with the deviations.
Why are there some different wildlife Standards for the wind energy industry compared to other industries in Alberta?
- Wildlife Standards are designed to mitigate the risk to specific wildlife species from a specific industry.
- The Standards outlined in the Directive are based on the best available scientific research.
- The Standards outline what constitutes adequate avoidance or mitigation to reduce or limit the risk to wildlife from wind energy facilities.
Wind Energy Checklists
What are the Wind Energy Checklists?
- The Wind Energy Checklists outline the information needed for the Alberta government Wildlife Biologist to facilitate the government's review process referred to in AUC Rule 007.
- Checklists can be found online at:
Which Wind Energy Checklist do I use for my wind energy project?
- Renewable Energy External Wind Checklist A is applicable to wind energy projects that are following the following AUC wind application types:
- A standard application where no changes are anticipated after filing;
- An application where changes in turbines or layout are anticipated after filing; and
- An application that indicates more turbine locations than are necessary for the wind power plant.
- Renewable Energy External Wind Checklist B is applicable for to the Buildable Area AUC application as described within AUC Rule 007.
Alberta government-Wildlife Process and Contact Information
What about other environmental risks? Does the Alberta government-wildlife process cover the government's other referral processes?
- The Alberta government-wildlife process is a separate process and does not replace the need for the government's other referrals. The focus of the Directive is wildlife and wildlife habitat; all other issues will be addressed through other existing processes. The proponent needs to ensure they are compliant with these processes.
- For example if a wetland is being disturbed the proponent would need to have approval under the government's Alberta Wetland Policy.
Who in the Alberta government do I contact about my wind project?
- For all wildlife related referrals please contact the local government Wildlife Office.
- Fisheries & Wildlife Management Area Contacts