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Environmental Impacts and Siting of Wind Projects

The Wind Program works to remove barriers to wind power deployment and to increase the acceptance of wind power technologies by addressing siting and environmental issues. Wind power is a renewable, low-carbon footprint energy supply option. When properly sited, wind projects provide a net environmental benefit to the communities in which they operate and to the nation overall. Read a report on the program's portfolio of environmental research & siting for wind projects.

As with all energy supply options, wind energy can have adverse environmental impacts. Wind projects have the potential to reduce, fragment, or degrade habitat for wildlife, fish, and plants. Turbine blades and towers can pose a threat to flying wildlife like birds (for example, the sage-grouse) and bats. To understand how to avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts in a cost-effective manner, the program has invested in peer-reviewed research for over 15 years, primarily through collaborative partnerships with the wind industry and environmental organizations, such as the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC), the Grassland and Shrub-Steppe Species Collaborative, and the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative. In May 2009, the program announced nearly $2 million in environmental research grants aimed at reducing the risks to key species and habitats from wind power developments. One recent report, completed and released in 2013 by researchers from Kansas State University, in collaboration with NWCC, found that wind development in Kansas had no strong effects on the population and reproduction of greater prairie chickens.

The program also works with other federal agencies to develop guidelines that enable developers to meet the statutory, regulatory, and administrative requirements for protecting wildlife, national security, and public safety. For example, the program works with the Department of the Interior to develop wildlife siting guidelines.

The program is also involved in the Interagency Field Test and Evaluation (IFT&E) effort, aimed at addressing the potential impacts of operating wind turbines on defense and civilian radar systems. The program characterized the impact of wind turbines on the existing air surveillance radars, assessed near-term mitigation methods proposed by industry, and collected and analyzed data to advance research and development of long-term mitigation methods. Three rounds of air testing near wind energy facilities in Minnesota and Texas were conducted during 2012 and 2013, culminating in a final report. DOE and its interagency partners are working to build off these tests to ensure that mitigation methods that have been tested can be deployed to reduce impacts to radar near wind facilities.  

Environmental Impacts and Siting Resources

The following resources contain additional information about environmental impacts and siting.

For a summary of the current state of research on wind-wildlife interactions, see Wind Turbine Interactions with Birds, Bats, and their Habitats.

For a quick overview of environmental and human risks related to wind energy development, see the Chapter 5 Summary Slides of the 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report.

Tethys Environmental Impacts Knowledge Management System

The U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory maintains Tethys, a database and knowledge management system that provides access to information and research about the potential environmental effects of offshore wind and marine and hydrokinetic development.