Land transformation (ha of surface disturbance/MW) associated with wind facilities shows wide variation in its reported values. In addition, no studies have attempted to explain the variation across facilities. We digitized land transformation at 39 wind facilities using high resolution aerial imagery. We then modeled the effects of turbine size, configuration, land cover, and topography on the levels of land transformation at three spatial scales. The scales included strings (turbines with intervening roads only), sites (strings with roads connecting them, buried cables and other infrastructure), and entire facilities (sites and the roads or transmission lines connecting them to existing infrastructure). An information theoretic modeling approach indicated land cover and topography were well-supported variables affecting land transformation, but not turbine size or configuration. Tilled landscapes, despite larger distances between turbines, had lower average land transformation, while facilities in forested landscapes generally had the highest land transformation. At site and string scales, flat topographies had the lowest land transformation, while facilities on mesas had the largest. The results indicate the landscape in which the facilities are placed affects the levels of land transformation associated with wind energy. This creates opportunities for optimizing wind energy production while minimizing land cover change. In addition, the results indicate forecasting the impacts of wind energy on land transformation should include the geographic variables affecting land transformation reported here.
Additional publication details
Land cover and topography affect the land transformation caused by wind facilities
Public Library of Science
San Francisco, CA
Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center