Wind energy and the environment
Wind energy is one of the cleanest, most environmentally friendly energy sources. It has a long-term positive impact on our environment as:
- It emits no greenhouse gases, and therefore reduces the threat posed by climate change – the single largest threat to biodiversity;
- It emits no air pollutants, which cause acid rain;
- It emits no micro-particles, which cause cancer and respiratory diseases;
- It uses almost no water, a resource that will be even scarcer in the future;
- Turbines are almost fully recyclable.
CO2 emissions and energy used to build turbines are the lowest among all power plants, after hydropower, as confirmed by the IPCC analysis on life cycle emissions of energy from its Special Report on Renewable Energies (Figure SMP8, p.19).
At the local level, wind energy can also have positive effects on biodiversity, and offers an opportunity to practice ecological restoration. Offshore windfarms, for example, are quickly populated by sea life.
Potential site-specific impacts on birds or bats can be avoided and minimised by careful planning and siting, or else mitigated or compensated. In fact, wind farm developers are required to undertake Environmental Impact Assessments to gauge all potential significant environmental effects and meet all requirements of EU legislation before construction can start. Birdlife International confirms their support for high wind and renewable use and 2030 targets in their report - Meeting Europe's Renewable Energy Targets in Harmony with Nature.
Wind energy can also be developed in protected Natura 2000 sites as confirmed by the European Commission in its Guidelines on Wind energy and Natura 2000.
- EWEA Position – Review of the EIA Directive
- EWEA Research note - Turbine recycling (Members area only)
- IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energies
- Birdlife report - Meeting RES targets in harmony with nature
- EWEA Briefing - Positive impacts of wind energy (Coming soon).
- EWEA Briefing - Positive environmental impacts of offshore wind energy (Members area only)
- EWEA Research Note - Underwater noise and offshore wind farms (Members area only)
- EWEA Research Note - Birds and offshore wind farms (Members area only)