Wind energy generation affects landscapes as new roads, pads, and transmission lines are constructed. Limiting the landscape change from these facilities likely minimizes impacts to biodiversity and sensitive wildlife species. We examined the effects of wind energy facilities’ geographic context on changes in landscape patterns using three metrics: portion of undeveloped land, core area index, and connectance index. We digitized 39 wind facilities and the surrounding land cover and measured landscape pattern before and after facility construction using the amount, core area, and connectivity of undeveloped land within one km around newly constructed turbines and roads. New facilities decreased the amount of undeveloped land by 1.8% while changes in metrics of landscape pattern ranged from 50 to 140%. Statistical models indicated pre-construction development was a key factor explaining the impact of new wind facilities on landscape metrics, with pre-construction road networks, turbine spacing, and topography having smaller influences. As the proportion of developed land around facilities increased, a higher proportion of the facility utilized pre-construction developed land and a lower density of new roads were built, resulting in smaller impacts to undeveloped landscapes. Building of new road networks was also a predictor of landscape fragmentation. Utilizing existing development and carefully placing turbines may provide opportunities to minimize the impacts of new wind energy facilities.
Geographic context affects the landscape change and fragmentation caused by wind energy facilities
Diffendorfer, J.; Dorning, M.; Keen, J.; Kramer, L.; Taylor, R. (2019). Geographic context affects the landscape change and fragmentation caused by wind energy facilities. PeerJ, .