Wind Power Compensation is not for the Birds: An Opinion from an Environmental Economist


  • Scott G. Cole

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Forest Economics, Centre for Environmental and Resource Economics (CERE), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), 901 87 Umeå, Sweden
      S. G. Cole, email
    Search for more papers by this author

S. G. Cole, email


This article advocates for better implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) framework as applied to wind power development, with a particular focus on improving compensatory restoration scaling. If properly enforced, the environmental impacts hierarchy “avoid-minimize-compensate” provides the regulated community with incentives to prevent wildlife and habitat impacts in sensitive areas and, if necessary, compensate for residual impacts through restoration or conservation projects. Given the increase in legislation requiring resource-based environmental compensation, methods for scaling an appropriate quantity and quality of resources are of increasing relevance. I argue that Equivalency Analysis (EA) represents a transparent and quantitative approach for scaling compensation in the case of wind power development. Herein, I identify the economic underpinnings of environmental compensation legislation and identify weaknesses in current scaling approaches within wind power development. I demonstrate how the recently completed REMEDE toolkit, which provides guidance on EA, can inform an improved scaling approach and summarize a case study involving raptor collisions with turbines that illustrates the EA approach. Finally, I stress the need for further contributions from the field of restoration ecology. The success of ex ante compensation in internalizing the environmental costs of wind development depends on the effective implementation of the environmental impacts hierarchy, which must effectively encourage avoidance and minimization over environmental restoration and repair.