Can wind turbines change vegetation patterns? This study says yes

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The wakes of wind turbines can alter downwind temperatures and humidity, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study, which concluded that the disturbed air downwind can and does impact vegetation in the area.

The study reported that with wind energy expanding rapidly, scientists know little about the impacts on vegetation and surface temperatures of land and sea, and how a small change in verdancy can impact birds and other wildlife.

“We are just beginning to understand how the wakes from wind turbines affect both the terrestrial and offshore environment,” said the U.S. Geological Survey’s research ecologist Jay Diffendorfer. “The next step will be to better understand where and why these effects occur.”

In the study, scientists modeled wake and non-wake zones around 17 wind facilities across the United States, to test if wakes influenced vegetation condition, which was measured using data from USGS’s Landsat satellites. The study was designed to isolate the effects of turbine wakes from other factors that could affect vegetation condition around wind facilities, such as new roads or agriculture.

The wake-induced changes in vegetation condition were found for part or all of the growing season at 10 of the 17 facilities studied.

Researchers found that wakes may have both positive and negative effects on vegetation greenness, a measure that is often used in remote sensing to assess vegetation density and crop health, and that the magnitude of the change in greenness depended primarily on earlier precipitation, the study’ author said. The changes observed at some facilities were consistent with levels that other studies found can affect breeding bird clutch size, species richness, and ungulate (hoofed animal) abundance.

As wind energy expands, understanding where and when wind turbines positively or negatively affect vegetation may aid decisions about where to site wind energy infrastructure. For example, careful placement may benefit agriculture or grazing while minimizing unwanted reductions to the vegetation greenness in the vicinity. 

“Wakes induced increased or decreased vegetation greenness at ten of 17 facilities based on BACI ana- lyses, maps of the anomaly in greenness and the difference between expected and observed green- ness in wake zones. While the observed changes in NDVI were relatively small, in some cases the change in greenness were of a magnitude previously docu- mented to affect ecological processes such as clutch size, population abundance, and species richness. The magnitude of wake effects depended primarily on precipitation and to a lesser degree aridity. Future research should advance spatial modelling of pre- dicted wake zones, improve our ability to predict the directionality of the wake impact, and concurrently track microclimate, vegetation, and other ecological variables,” the study concluded.

Global wind energy has expanded 5-fold since 2010 and is expected to expand another 8–10-fold over the next 30 years. With some of the effects on verdancy exceeding 3%, studies such as this one may inform communities and countries as they adopt these so-called green technologies.

The full publication, Wind turbine wakes can impact down-wind vegetation greenness,” authored by Diffendorfer, is found in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Going “green” has nothing to do with protecting nature and everything to do with exerting control over all aspects of our lives.

    There is a great scene in Yellowstone where the left is pushing to stop gas leases to protect sage grass. Kevin Costner points out how much sage grass has been destroyed by putting in acres of solar panels.

    It’s a cult dedicated to control. Nothing less.

  2. Landsat study.
    Everyone should’ve stopped reading at the start of the article.
    “Wow” this slightly different color pixel measuring 1 x 1 mile is a real game changer! Everyone should start towing their boats with electric vehicles!

  3. Windmills cause dirty electricity and negatively effect both humans & animals. Cows near windfarms produce less milk.

  4. Can oilfields change vegetation patterns, wildlife patterns, global climate, water quality, air quality, human health, and peaceful co-existence? Experience says yes.

    The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone…

    • Really?

      Please explain the many, many ecological and climate changes which occurred before oil was ever discovered. I’m all ears.

      Let’s keep it local. The pipeline was supposed to destroy the migrating caribou and elk populations. Didn’t happen.

      After Exxon Valdez the coastal environment was supposed to be ruined for generations. Didn’t happen.

      I’m old enough to remember before the first Earth Day. The fear of the next ice age. Didn’t happen.

      I’m old enough to remember at least 4 different iterations of “we only have 10 years to save blah, blah, blah.

      Experience actually works against your claims. Vigorously. It also clearly shows people making the claims you seem to be endorsing are talking out of their butts. And are always, always, always wrong.

      Just like Anthony Fauci.

      We got out of the Stone Age by innovating and making use out of what God have us. Environmentally and intellectually.

      • Yes you are right, masked avenger Al gore has predicted many earth ending climate disasters and I am still waiting. All the fear mongers and experts have done is show how ridiculous they are. If the government really believes it the the government should reduce its footprint first by at least 50% and stop using fossil fuels get rid of buildings and any non green infrastructure. No gas for the government or military. Lead by example joe and then we’ll will talk. You first Joe… walk the talk or go home. You want the sheep to cut but not you rich good for nothing clan.

      • And it’s your attitude masked idiot that is leaving the planet in shambles for future generations. Why are you so offended by people trying to leave this place better than your generation has left it?

        • Lorenandrews
          You must not drive or buy things made with oil. If you want a better planet then stop all the wars. Look at their environmental impact. Next cut the government by at least 50% they don’t need all the buildings people and carbon footprint to over regulate us.

      • Dear TMA, how unsurprising that you have apparently missed the entire point of my comment. The reason that this article appears here today is not in fact due to some newfound interest in environmental matters on behalf of MRAK. The article has been cherry-picked, and the tone selected, solely to cast alternative energy sources in a bad light because they threaten the Alaskan petrostate.

        I hate neither oilfields, nor the oil industry in any way. They have in fact been my personal livelihood for decades. What I do detest, however, is people who close their minds to change, simply because it threatens their own economic interests. I’m a pragmatist. Oil and gas will be needed for a long while, but it’s clear that they are doing global damage, and it’s time to move off of them. Perhaps they were fine in the past when their impacts weren’t well understood, but now better data has come along, and we’ve got to act accordingly. Don’t just bury your head in the sand. Change happens. The future is unstoppable. Roll with it.

        • A second helping of pointless propaganda doesn’t work any more than the first.

          Everything you said is just another round of meaningless platitudes and bromides.

          Perhaps I might have gotten your point had you actually made a cogent one.

  5. If a wind turbine spun and produced energy for its expected life span it would never recoup the energy (fossil fuels) it took to make it.
    Climate Change activism is the same as some other religions and that the parishioners believe themselves to be righteous and the problem is these other people.
    Why do you look at the speck in your bothers eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye.

    • Absolutely false. They produce 20-25 times more energy over their lifespan than the energy used to produce them. Here is a peer-reviewed article in case you’re interested in actual data.

      ‘https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S096014810900055X

      • Your link to facts goes to nowhere, no such link. In your fact base hypothesis you should include mining. Mining includes Oil and Gas and the Petro Chemical Industry. Most of the climate alarmist cult can be found with the latest polyesters, Nylons, and plastics from A to Z. I would have more respect if you all walked the talk. I hear there were about 400 private flights to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for UN Climate Change Conference (COP27). The only thing your going to get from marching along with this deception is a front row seat to your own destruction.

  6. How about the number of birds that get caught in the wind farm and killed. Where are the animal rights people? Birds need protected.

  7. Everything has to be weighed between cost and benefit. Both windmills and oil production can be part of an energy plan. Personally I find windmills to be ‘visually invasive’, not to mention they are high maintenance, often have to be shut down in high winds, or just don’t turn when no wind. They do also require another source of power. And birds do indeed meet their demise frequently. Oil fields do not kill animals. Anyone who has visited or worked on the slope can attest to abundant wildlife all over. With that said, many communities can benefit from windmills as part of their energy, especially in Alaska. They can be installed at sites thar have less impact. Kodiak has a group installed on top of Pilar Mountain that provide quite a bit of electricity to that community, along with a hydro system outside of town. All backed up though by diesel. Which is a fossil fuel.

    It is senseless to force the elimination of fossil fuels. Albeit the whole effort has nothing to do with sense, or even the environment, but everything to do with power and control.

  8. Whidbey, why is it that Liberals who question green energy are “stone age” and “flat earthers?” When the grid fails and all we have are electric cars and appliances, you will see some real stone age. People starting large fires to stay warm and cook food while burning anything that will burn.

  9. I’ve found parts and pieces of Golden Eagles and Osprey near Wind Farms, strewn over the tundra. Sad, unless you are a Ground Squirrel or a Duckling, because it means that there is now one less predator trying to take you home for dinner. Go Green!

  10. Who would have guessed? “Clean” energy is the dirtiest kind. When will leftists just give up and use what we have been using for centuries with no ill effects rather than try to experiment with things better left alone. Tried and true is best. We are better off looking for more oil to use with our existing infrastructure than burn everything to the ground around us trying to play God.

  11. We don’t need to cease mining, timber, oil, and gas harvesting because of new age thought harnessing wind, sun, and water is thought less damaging. A healthy private sector and economy is a good thing. Besides! In the beginning in Gen1 God when He finished making everything called all he made good. Takes all types to build a healthy community’s economy not all want to work with the sun, wind, nor water. Some are born to work with rocks and dirt, oil, gas, and trees. Its our love of money that overuse God’s resources- his gifts- by personal choice or over reliance and damage ourselves.

  12. OMG!!! Windmills cause environmental devastation! We’re all going to die!

    There is an industry of study publishers whose only job is to throw their turds in the academic punchbowl. This is a prime example.

    Me remembers not to far back with the USAF erected a gigantic windmill not to far from the base runway in Cheyenne WY. The obvious question of why they chose to install it anywhere NEAR a runway was not the big question from the media as they regurgitated article after article about how the windmill was killing birds.

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