Analysis of Environmental Impacts of Large-scale Wind Farms Using Remote Sensing




Walsh-Thomas, Jenell M.

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Wind energy is increasingly becoming a prevalent alternative, renewable energy resource as societies worldwide are attempting to reduce their carbon footprint in an effort to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and to compensate for the ever decreasing supply of worldwide fossil fuel sources. There are many benefits to utilizing wind energy due to the lack of pollutant releases in the atmosphere, ocean or soil. Particularly important is the decreased carbon dioxide emissions, which has been associated with mitigating climate change. Wind energy is a renewable resource, it can have a positive economic impact, and there are several locations on the planet that are good candidates for wind energy production. While there are many advantages in harnessing wind energy to produce electricity, the impacts of wind turbines and perhaps more importantly of large scale wind farms on the environment need to be determined and examined in a quantitative way in order to make and support sound decisions on the placement of wind farms as well as the mitigation of any harmful environmental impacts. Any direct environmental impact of large scale wind farms needs to be investigated because it could impact agriculture, economics, health, society, and technology. Baidya Roy, et al (2004); Baidya Roy & Traiteur (2010); and Baidya Roy (2011), have published a series of manuscripts analyzing data obtained from meteorological towers in conjunction with predictions based on computer modeling and hypothesize that large-scale wind farms produce a measureable effect on ambient air temperature. Collecting in situ data quickly becomes difficult from a practical perspective as the size of the wind farm facility increases because many sensors are needed over a large area. Satellite remote sensing observations are particularly suited to study temperature changes over large areas due to the availability of high resolution measurements over many years. While the hypothesis based on relevant literature review is that wind farms have a measureable impact, the proposed goal of this thesis is to quantitatively assess the environmental impacts of operational wind farms, specifically surface temperature and vegetation, with the potential to expand to other variables, using Landsat and other satellite derived imagery, such as from Terra equipped with a moderate resolution imaging spectrometer (MODIS) or SPOT equipped with a vegetation mapper with 1 km spatial resolution.



Remote Sensing, Wind Energy, Renewable Energy, Environmental Impacts, Wind Farms, Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper