In this new feature, AWWI program leaders give a behind-the-scenes look at their work.
This month, Outreach Manager Paige Johnson chats with Stu Webster, Senior Manager of Technology Innovation and Research, and Katy Battle, Technology Innovation Manager
Paige: What are some of the logistical challenges you encounter when developing and executing technology evaluation projects?
Stu: The primary challenges are connecting a host site with a need for a solution with the right technology or strategy, and a technology that is ready to be deployed in the field and evaluated. Figuring out how to match these three needles in a haystack is the most exciting part of the job, but has the most uncertainty. A recent example is a project evaluating if weather data collected at off-site locations would be a better predictor of bat fatality than weather data collected on-site. Such an example is stars aligning to get together the pertinent parties and rally investment. We anticipate publishing these results soon.
There are many hurdles when developing these projects. You can do a lot of planning, but you can’t plan for everything; you always need to be responsive to how they develop. A big challenge right now with COVID-19 is working with all project partners to understand how they themselves are going to respond – and any of these plans could change tomorrow. The good news is that organizations are starting to crystallize their approaches, enabling us to evaluate what the options are and build contingency plans.
Paige: What are some specific solutions you have come up with to overcome these types of challenges?
Katy: One example is that we were able to negotiate a modification to reposition the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) division of exempt and non-exempt activities for a DOE-supported project evaluating the Vestas Bat Protection System (VBPS) technology. Such divisions allow initial planning and preparation work to proceed but only until a defined point of “stop work,” at which the environmental review takes place. The original timing for the division in this project would have stalled some early, essential steps. Our repositioning the NEPA division in the project’s timeline allowed our VBPS team to prepare itself to swiftly and smoothly initiate fieldwork this summer such that, if the COVID concerns settle by that time, our team is ready to carry on without missing a beat.
Stu: This is what we do – temporally, spatially, and scope-wise, the value of TIP is that we fix these problems. We leverage our network and figure out paths forward and solutions to these projects that are valuable to the wind-wildlife community.
Paige: How does the TIP work support others working on risk minimization technologies and research?
Stu: NREL and other labs in the DOE network are instrumental to getting solutions to market expeditiously. NREL’s TD&I (Technology Development & Innovation) program can take early stage tech and give it the kick it needs to get to the next stage where it gains interest and gets ready for near-commercial testing with groups like AWWI’s TIP. We’ve had the opportunity to work with TD&I on projects like surveying technology developers about their interest and awareness of TD&I funding opportunities.
Through our Partners & Friends, and the broader conservation, agency, and industry stakeholder communities that we work with in a variety of different ways, TIP has a good idea of the pulse of technology solutions for wind-wildlife issues and are always looking for ways to support efforts to advance these solutions.