Joy Page wants to combat the climate crisis head on. Drawing on her experience with renewable energy, she recently joined the Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) as a biologist to ensure harmony between wind energy deployment and wildlife populations. We chatted about her new role and the types of collaboration that need to happen to mitigate climate change and protect species
Can you tell us a little about yourself and the career path that led you to DOE?
I am lucky to have had a very diverse career up to now. After receiving a Master of Science in environmental and occupational health, I started my career regulating pesticides at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency while going to law school at night at Georgetown University. Upon graduation, I joined a law firm doing environmental law (mostly regulatory compliance and mergers and acquisitions). After paying off my student loans, I was done sitting on the sidelines with respect to the climate change crisis. So I pivoted to the non-profit sector and worked for Defenders of Wildlife for eight years directing their renewable energy program. In that role, I worked regularly with WETO as a peer reviewer and as a collaborator. I was constantly impressed with the impact WETO was making with respect to advancing wind energy. I can confidentially say that WETO has been the biggest single driver of change toward wind–wildlife co-existence, and I am thrilled that an opportunity arose to join the team at such an exciting time.
What has been the most exciting aspect of joining EERE?
The passion, talent, and energy of my colleagues. I have served in a variety of roles at a variety of organizations, but I have never been part of such a talented, committed, mission-driven team. Each day, my team members both lift me up and challenge me. The energy and commitment of DOE leadership is also unparalleled. I can’t think of a more exciting time or place to be a public servant working on climate change.
What would you like EERE to know or understand about your work or your office, in general?
While renewable energy is critical to climate change mitigation, it is not without impact. Utility-scale wind and solar energy, if not developed responsibly, can negatively impact communities and wildlife. Understanding and mitigating these impacts where practicable will be crucial to meeting our climate change goals. However, we cannot address these challenges with science and technology alone. We must keep the human component front and center in all of our work by engaging communities, regulatory agencies, industry, and other stakeholders in all of our work.
How do you hope to facilitate wildlife co-existence with wind and solar development in your new role?
My biggest priority is to enhance stakeholder collaboration to ensure we are targeting the largest deployment barriers related to wildlife co-existence in our research investments. Given the number of challenges, we have to be strategic about how and when we tackle them, thinking both long- and short-term. For example, permitting requirements and regulatory incentives is a huge challenge for deployment right now so we have to work more directly with federal and state regulatory agencies to ensure our research investments align with their policies to mitigate climate change and the biodiversity loss crises.
As a part of this I am a big believer in strategic planning and mapping out theories of change with input from stakeholders. We need to be explicit with our assumptions of why we think our research investments will drive change, and we should continue to test those assumptions and adapt as necessary. We should also align these strategies with our federal wildlife agencies where possible to create an adaptive feedback loop where science drives effective policy and policy further drives research priorities. We are actively working on internal deployment strategies, and I am excited to contribute to these efforts.
We also plan to work directly with our communications team to improve the way we communicate the results of our wildlife research investments such that decision makers and communities can develop more transparent and objective decision-making processes. This is particularly important in communities that have been marginalized in the past and have not had a seat at the table with respect to industrial development in their community.
What advances in clean energy technologies do you hope to see in your lifetime?
My biggest hope is that we will develop technologies to deter bats from wind turbines. Of all the species I have worked on, migratory tree bats are the only species where wind energy appears to be a primary population threat for at least one species – the hoary bat. We are so close to commercializing cost-effective deterrents and smart curtailment strategies that can achieve bat–wind co-existence. We now need to focus on getting these technologies ready for broad deployment across the wind energy sector. Time is of the essence, given the magnitude of bat fatalities recorded at wind facilities nationwide during the fall migration season. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seriously considering listing the hoary bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to the threat from wind energy alone. Given this species’ range and risk of collision, it would put nearly every wind facility out of compliance with the ESA. This result could have far-reaching negative implications for the industry, our ecosystems, and our climate mitigation goals.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work that you’d like to share?
I currently serve as camping coordinator for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. It has been my greatest privilege to get these girls outside to share my love of camping and teach them outdoor skills like fire building and knot tying. Girl Scouts really stresses the importance of making camping accessible for everyone, so as part of this, I have gotten pretty “DIY” with my gear to prove that you don’t need to invest much to spend a night in the woods. Feel free to reach out if you need advice on how to make a sit-upon from a reusable grocery bag or a charcoal chimney starter from an empty V8 can.