Wind energy offers the potential to reduce carbon emissions while increasing energy independence and bolstering economic development. However, wind energy has a larger land footprint per Gigawatt (GW) than most other forms of energy production, making appropriate siting and mitigation particularly important. Species that require large unfragmented habitats and those known to avoid vertical structures are particularly at risk from wind development. Developing energy on disturbed lands rather than placing new developments within large and intact habitats would reduce cumulative impacts to wildlife. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that it will take 241 GW of terrestrial based wind development on approximately 5 million hectares to reach 20% electricity production for the U.S. by 2030. We estimate there are similar to 7,700 GW of potential wind energy available across the U.S., with similar to 3,500 GW on disturbed lands. In addition, a disturbance-focused development strategy would avert the development of similar to 2.3 million hectares of undisturbed lands while generating the same amount of energy as development based solely on maximizing wind potential. Wind subsidies targeted at favoring low-impact developments and creating avoidance and mitigation requirements that raise the costs for projects impacting sensitive lands could improve public value for both wind energy and biodiversity conservation.
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