Chapter 9.12 - Weather, Climatic and Ecological Impacts of Onshore Wind Farms

Liming Zhou, Somnath Roy, Geng Xia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus Citations


Wind power is an environmentally sustainable technology that is likely to be part of the solution to the climate change, air pollution, and energy security problems. Despite many positive benefits, the rapid development of wind power has raised concerns about some potential adverse environmental impacts. While converting wind׳s kinetic energy into electricity, wind turbines (WTs) modify properties of the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) including the vertical profiles and surface-atmosphere exchanges of energy, momentum, mass, moisture, and trace gases. Given the current installed capacity and the projected installation worldwide, wind farms (WFs) are likely becoming a major driver of manmade land use change on Earth. Hence, understanding WT-atmosphere-surface interactions and assessing potential environmental impacts of WFs are of significant scientific, societal and economic importance. Here we review our progress in assessing potential impacts of onshore wind power on weather, climate and vegetation activity. A consensus is emerging based on observations and modeling studies that WFs cause a local to regional warming effect, particularly at nighttime, while the impacts on precipitation, wind patterns, crop yields and vegetation activity are uncertain. The warming effect results simply from vertical heat redistribution within the ABL due to turbine-enhanced vertical turbulent mixing in the wakes. At the global scale, with a substantial installation of WFs, mesoscale and climate models predicted large regional changes but small global impacts on temperature, while the impacts on precipitation, clouds, wind patterns and large-scale circulation have large uncertainties and are region specific and scale dependent. Despite increasing number of research efforts, our assessment of potential WF impacts is still very limited. Although the WF impacts are mostly local and limited to the near-surface ABL, this is the layer where we live and plants grow. Hence, more studies are needed to improve our understanding of WT-atmosphere-surface interactions and our capability to model and project the weather, climatic and ecological impacts of large WFs.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationComprehensive Renewable Energy, Second Edition
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 9: Environmental and Social Issues
EditorsT. M. Letcher
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780128197349
ISBN (Print)9780128197271
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CH-5000-85740


  • Atmospheric boundary layer
  • Climatic impacts
  • Turbulence
  • Turbulent kinetic energy
  • Wind energy
  • Wind farms
  • Wind power
  • Wind turbine


Dive into the research topics of 'Chapter 9.12 - Weather, Climatic and Ecological Impacts of Onshore Wind Farms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this