The “Guidelines for Municipalities: Developing Bird Friendly and Environmentally Responsible Utility-Scale Solar” was prepared by the Pennsylvania Audubon Council’s Renewable Energy Committee (REC) to provide proper siting criteria and information on utility-scale solar projects in Pennsylvania in order to ensure that critical bird areas, migration routes, and important wildlife habitats are protected; and to offer methods to minimize and mitigate the impact of utility-scale solar projects on birds and other wildlife.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to birds, both now and in the future. Counteracting this threat means not only dramatically reducing carbon emissions but doing so in a way that does not cause further harm to birds and their habitats. In that regard, utility-scale solar projects should be sited as close to users as possible, both to minimize bird deaths from collisions with transmission lines and to avoid the energy losses that occur during transmission and distribution. Additional recommendations for proper siting of renewable energy projects include:

  • Forests should not be logged.
  • Migratory flyways, including ridgetops and stopovers such as wetlands, grasslands, forests, conservation areas, and lakes should be avoided.
  • Habitat fragmentation should be limited.
  • Site preparation should occur prior to the installation of solar panels and should include the use of native grasses and pollinator plantings under and around solar panels, native plant buffers, wildlife friendly fencing, creation of wildlife corridors, minimization of wildlife deaths from transmission lines, and decommissioning plans.
  • Degradation of habitat from construction of roads, soil compaction and erosion, and road dust should be avoided, and
  • The introduction of invasive plants should be avoided, while native plants should be included.
  • Development should be sensitive to community values and needs.

Links to the Pennsylvania Audubon Council’s Renewable Energy Committee’s Guidelines for Municipalities, the Executive Summary of the Guidelines for Municipalities, and a webinar introducing the Guidelines, presented to the Audubon Chapters in the PA Audubon Council by the Renewable Energy Committee. The “Guidelines for Municipalities: Developing Bird Friendly and Environmentally Responsible Utility Scale Solar” represents the position of the PA Audubon Council’s Renewable Energy Committee which is solely responsible for its content.


The Pennsylvania Audubon Council Renewable Energy Committee presented its webinar, via a ZOOM, on the evening of December 6, 2022. The webinar featured a PowerPoint presented by the members of the Renewable Energy Committee: Tom Kuehl, Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society; Laura Jackson, Juniata Valley Audubon Society; Susan Murawski, Presque Isle Audubon Society; and Judy Stepenaskie, Wyncote Audubon Society. These members of the Renewable Energy Committee have been at work for over two years, focusing on the guidelines for responsibly sited solar and wind projects.

This webinar was targeted to chapter leaders to solicit their review and comment on the Committee’s draft: “Guidelines for Municipalities: Developing Bird Friendly and Environmentally Responsible Utility Scale Solar.” The webinar enjoyed good participation, discussion and feedback that has been used to improve the document. Comments during the webinar made note that the more rural areas of the Commonwealth will likely receive more applications for the construction of utility scale solar projects. Many Pennsylvania Counties including Adams, Bedford, Lebanon, Lancaster, Lycoming and York Counties were among those raised as areas for proposed projects. Also mentioned was the fact that urban municipalities, like Philadelphia, may work to have projects sited in more rural parts of the state. This topic is very timely, as there will be important initiatives and funding to support the development of solar installations across the Commonwealth and the nation. There will be a critical need for fossil free energy production that is responsibly sited and operated! Our Pennsylvania Audubon Chapters network will be important in monitoring proposed projects because Pennsylvania is a “Home Rule” Commonwealth.

We encourage any interested chapter leader to access the Zoom recording of the webinar and we welcome any questions, additional suggestions, and comments. The next step for the Pennsylvania Audubon Council Renewable Energy Committee is to share the white paper with our conservation partners in the Commonwealth and to offer our webinar to a wider audience. The recorded webinar can be found below.