Observed Impacts of Large Wind Farms on Grassland Carbon Cycling

Donghai Wu, Steven Grodsky, Wenfang Xu, Naijing Liu, Rafael Almeida, Liming Zhou, Lee Miller, Somnath Baidya Roy, Geng Xia, Anurag Agrawal, Benjamin Houlton, Alexander Flecker, Xiangtao Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus Citations


Deployment of wind energy is an essential renewable energy source that mitigates climate change and reduces air pollution [1]. Over the last several decades, wind energy development has increased worldwide, expanding from ~20 to ~900 GW (gigawatt) during 2001-2022 [1]. Nonetheless, researchers have identified unintended consequences of wind energy on microclimate via turbine-altered surface-atmosphere exchanges of energy, momentum, mass, and trace gases [2], [3]. Based on multi-source observations and models, researchers also have drawn some conclusions that wind farms could warm the land surface, especially at night, at regional and continental scales [4], [5]. Consequently, altered microclimates at wind farms may affect vegetation productivity and carbon sequestration, two critically important ecosystem services related to carbon dynamics; however, such potential impacts and driving mechanisms remain poorly understood [6]. Wind energy deployment is increasing globally to meet carbon neutrality goals, with upscaling of onshore wind power capacity projected to grow from 542 GW in 2018 to 1787 and 5044 GW by 2030 and 2050, respectively [7]. Increased demand for wind energy deployment may lead to much larger wind farms in open, expansive landscapes [7]. In turn, a large array of geographically clustered wind turbines could collectively modify local microclimate and amplify turbine-atmosphere interactions, which, if large enough, may produce detectable impacts on ecosystem dynamics. Thus, identifying and quantifying the potential impacts of wind farms on carbon-related ecosystem services may facilitate sustainable wind energy development globally.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2889-2892
Number of pages4
JournalScience Bulletin
Issue number23
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-83931


  • carbon sequestration
  • vegetation growth
  • wind energy


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