Producing electricity by any process with any fuel, affects the West Michigan environment in some way. Comparative studies have shown that the nature and magnitude of environmental impacts varies among the electricity-generation processes, whether fueled by coal, natural gas, solar, water, wind or another energy source. These disparate impacts occur throughout the life cycle of the electricity-generation process, from extracting fuel to constructing the facility to managing residues leftover from the process. The life cycle impacts of electricity production are also dispersed geographically-meaning some of the environmental benefits may be experienced globally while the adverse impacts might be confronted locally. However, when these different electricity-production processes are compared, wind energy presents less harm to the environment overall than most other sources, but especially when compared to electricity generated from fossil fuels.
This issue brief summarizes some of the environmental impacts associated with land-based (as opposed to offshore) wind energy development. The brief focuses on how wind turbines may affect wildlife, including collisions with wind turbines and compromised habitat, and wind energy's landscape impacts. The brief concludes with a discussion of local, state and federal regulation of land-based wind energy from an environmental perspective.
The environmental impact of offshore wind energy development as well as several other issues, are discussed in separate issue briefs. The potential for reducing air pollution, including greenhouse gases, is explored in the West Michigan Wind Assessment issue brief Reducing Air Pollution and Carbon Emissions in Michigan Using Wind Energy. Effects on the human environment, such as noise and shadow flicker, are presented in the issue brief Wind Power and Human Health: Flicker, Noise, and Air Pollution.