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Comparing the ecological impacts of wind and oil & gas development: a landscape scale assessment.

Jones NF, Pejchar L - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: We found substantial differences in impacts between energy types for most indicators, although the magnitude and direction of the differences varied.Oil and gas generally resulted in greater impacts per unit area but fewer impacts per unit energy compared with wind.This rapid evaluation of landscape-scale energy development impacts could be replicated in other regions, and our specific findings can help meet the challenge of balancing land conservation with society's demand for energy.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Energy production in the United States is in transition as the demand for clean and domestic power increases. Wind energy offers the benefit of reduced emissions, yet, like oil and natural gas, it also contributes to energy sprawl. We used a diverse set of indicators to quantify the ecological impacts of oil, natural gas, and wind energy development in Colorado and Wyoming. Aerial imagery was supplemented with empirical data to estimate habitat loss, fragmentation, potential for wildlife mortality, susceptibility to invasion, biomass carbon lost, and water resources. To quantify these impacts we digitized the land-use footprint within 375 plots, stratified by energy type. We quantified the change in impacts per unit area and per unit energy produced, compared wind energy to oil and gas, and compared landscapes with and without energy development. We found substantial differences in impacts between energy types for most indicators, although the magnitude and direction of the differences varied. Oil and gas generally resulted in greater impacts per unit area but fewer impacts per unit energy compared with wind. Biologically important and policy-relevant outcomes of this study include: 1) regardless of energy type, underlying land-use matters and development in already disturbed areas resulted in fewer total impacts; 2) the number and source of potential mortality varied between energy types, however, the lack of robust mortality data limits our ability to use this information to estimate and mitigate impacts; and 3) per unit energy produced, oil and gas extraction was less impactful on an annual basis but is likely to have a much larger cumulative footprint than wind energy over time. This rapid evaluation of landscape-scale energy development impacts could be replicated in other regions, and our specific findings can help meet the challenge of balancing land conservation with society's demand for energy.

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Portions of the study area where wind energy development could occur on previously disturbed lands.This map delineates areas with potential for wind energy development on previously disturbed lands (black), native or undisturbed lands (grey), and areas that lack suitable wind resources (white) as well as the location of existing wind energy facilities [27], [28], [59], [60], [61].
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pone-0081391-g006: Portions of the study area where wind energy development could occur on previously disturbed lands.This map delineates areas with potential for wind energy development on previously disturbed lands (black), native or undisturbed lands (grey), and areas that lack suitable wind resources (white) as well as the location of existing wind energy facilities [27], [28], [59], [60], [61].

Mentions: Comparisons of impacts across energy types must consider the geographic and landscape context. For example, regardless of energy type, development in already disturbed areas (i.e., cultivated crops) resulted in fewer impacts to indicators. Colorado and Wyoming have been proposed as two of 38 states where the DOE goals for wind energy development can be entirely met on disturbed lands (Figure 6) [47]. It remains unclear, however, if this goal is economically viable given the cost of roads, transmission lines, and other infrastructure associated with strategically developing wind resources to minimize impacts to undisturbed lands. Oil and gas developers face similar physical and economic constraints in that they can only develop in the vicinity of existing underground reserves. However, new technology which could utilize existing well pads to drill dozens of new wells has not been fully applied in Colorado and Wyoming [48]. Given the rapid pace of energy sprawl, moving quickly to establish regulations or financial incentives to develop energy resources on already disturbed land may be one of the most important steps we can take to minimize impacts to biodiversity and ecosystem services.


Comparing the ecological impacts of wind and oil & gas development: a landscape scale assessment.

Jones NF, Pejchar L - PLoS ONE (2013)

Portions of the study area where wind energy development could occur on previously disturbed lands.This map delineates areas with potential for wind energy development on previously disturbed lands (black), native or undisturbed lands (grey), and areas that lack suitable wind resources (white) as well as the location of existing wind energy facilities [27], [28], [59], [60], [61].
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3842249&req=5

pone-0081391-g006: Portions of the study area where wind energy development could occur on previously disturbed lands.This map delineates areas with potential for wind energy development on previously disturbed lands (black), native or undisturbed lands (grey), and areas that lack suitable wind resources (white) as well as the location of existing wind energy facilities [27], [28], [59], [60], [61].
Mentions: Comparisons of impacts across energy types must consider the geographic and landscape context. For example, regardless of energy type, development in already disturbed areas (i.e., cultivated crops) resulted in fewer impacts to indicators. Colorado and Wyoming have been proposed as two of 38 states where the DOE goals for wind energy development can be entirely met on disturbed lands (Figure 6) [47]. It remains unclear, however, if this goal is economically viable given the cost of roads, transmission lines, and other infrastructure associated with strategically developing wind resources to minimize impacts to undisturbed lands. Oil and gas developers face similar physical and economic constraints in that they can only develop in the vicinity of existing underground reserves. However, new technology which could utilize existing well pads to drill dozens of new wells has not been fully applied in Colorado and Wyoming [48]. Given the rapid pace of energy sprawl, moving quickly to establish regulations or financial incentives to develop energy resources on already disturbed land may be one of the most important steps we can take to minimize impacts to biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Bottom Line: We found substantial differences in impacts between energy types for most indicators, although the magnitude and direction of the differences varied.Oil and gas generally resulted in greater impacts per unit area but fewer impacts per unit energy compared with wind.This rapid evaluation of landscape-scale energy development impacts could be replicated in other regions, and our specific findings can help meet the challenge of balancing land conservation with society's demand for energy.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Energy production in the United States is in transition as the demand for clean and domestic power increases. Wind energy offers the benefit of reduced emissions, yet, like oil and natural gas, it also contributes to energy sprawl. We used a diverse set of indicators to quantify the ecological impacts of oil, natural gas, and wind energy development in Colorado and Wyoming. Aerial imagery was supplemented with empirical data to estimate habitat loss, fragmentation, potential for wildlife mortality, susceptibility to invasion, biomass carbon lost, and water resources. To quantify these impacts we digitized the land-use footprint within 375 plots, stratified by energy type. We quantified the change in impacts per unit area and per unit energy produced, compared wind energy to oil and gas, and compared landscapes with and without energy development. We found substantial differences in impacts between energy types for most indicators, although the magnitude and direction of the differences varied. Oil and gas generally resulted in greater impacts per unit area but fewer impacts per unit energy compared with wind. Biologically important and policy-relevant outcomes of this study include: 1) regardless of energy type, underlying land-use matters and development in already disturbed areas resulted in fewer total impacts; 2) the number and source of potential mortality varied between energy types, however, the lack of robust mortality data limits our ability to use this information to estimate and mitigate impacts; and 3) per unit energy produced, oil and gas extraction was less impactful on an annual basis but is likely to have a much larger cumulative footprint than wind energy over time. This rapid evaluation of landscape-scale energy development impacts could be replicated in other regions, and our specific findings can help meet the challenge of balancing land conservation with society's demand for energy.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus