On March 12, 2010, the Arizona Game and Fish Department ("AGFD") released finalized guidelines for solar development in Arizona ("Solar Guidelines"), the objective of which "is to assist energy developers in identifying potential impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitats from their proposed development and potential alternatives to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate for these negative impacts." The AGFD encourages local governments and permitting authorities to integrate the recommended study proposals described in the Solar Guidelines. The document is organized around five basic project development steps:
- Wildlife Protection Regulations
- AGFD Regulations and Review
- Gather preliminary information and conduct site screening
- Identify potential impacts to wildlife
The Solar Guidelines were compiled by the AGFD employees and have not undergone any external public review or input from the solar energy industry. It should be noted that some of the information contained in the Solar Guidelines was taken from the AGFD’s wind guidelines. In light of the fact that county officials often defer to the AGFD in matters of wildlife concerns, special attention should be given to the section of the Solar Guidelines focused on "Avoiding or Minimizing Impacts" and the recommendations contained therein.
In addition, AGFD identified several areas in which information regarding the impacts of utility-scale solar development on wildlife and habitats is lacking. Specifically, AGFD believes that research is needed on the following topics:
- Determine the "effective footprint" of utility-scale solar development so mitigation strategies can be implemented at the spatial extent of the impact.
- Need to determine the potential effects of a proposed solar project on the demographics of select wildlife species.
- Evaluate the alteration of vegetation and micro-climate adjacent to solar facilities.
- Identify the impact that utility-scale solar development has on wildlife corridors.
- Evaluate the movement and behavior patterns of select wildlife species (e.g., ungulates, grassland passerines, raptors) pre- and post-construction.
- Examine the impacts to migratory birds and bats.
- Develop mitigation strategies to reduce the impacts of water impoundments associated with solar facilities.