Duke Energy wildlife biologist Tim Hayes protects animals and plants at renewable energy sites.

Keeping the Lights On and Protecting Wildlife

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Duke Energy Renewables Environmental Development Director Tim Hayes spends a lot of time looking at the ground.

That might seem odd, but it’s the way of a wildlife biologist. Eyes pointed just beyond his feet, he looks for tufts of fur, tracks, and even scat for clues as to what wildlife lives near solar and wind sites.

People are often surprised to learn energy companies have biologists, but it’s imperative as the company expands renewables. When his team isn’t looking for wildlife, they’re working with government agencies, nonprofits and technology developers to create policies, products and plans that keep wildlife safe while producing clean energy that customers depend on.

Before construction, they survey species, consult with wildlife agencies, perform biological surveys and decide if the site will move on to construction or if the wildlife risk is too great.

During construction, Duke Energy hires consultants who specialize in the area’s threatened or endangered plants and animals. At MesteƱo Wind Project, the team worked around species like the Texas tortoise.

The crew built a dirt road through an area Hayes calls a hotbed of tortoise activity. The area was unavoidable, but the tortoise loves the thick brush (a shady place to rest), good soil and plentiful water, so the team educated workers about the tortoise and set a 5 mph speed limit.

Once a site is in production, they monitor ecosystem health. When the results are unexpected, Hayes’ team finds solutions. At Los Vientos Wind Project, the team noticed higher than expected bat fatalities, which was an opportunity to test a new Bat Deterrent System. The two-year study reduced overall fatalities by half, and now they’re pursuing the continental United States’ first commercial installation of the technology.

As the industry grows, it’s vital to find solutions like these. Hayes knows it’s not a problem he can solve on his own, but he’s glad to be part of the solution.