Legal, Economic, and Natural Science Analyses of Wind Plant Impacts and Interactions

This research project will examine the physical, economic, and legal interactions among wind turbines, wind farms, and their local environments. The project will seek answers to a set of important questions, including the following: Who owns the wind? Who enjoys the benefits of positive downwind impacts on crops and other wind plants? Who bears responsibility for negative downwind impacts of newly constructed wind turbines? This project will quantify the atmospheric and economic impacts of wind farms to more accurately assess the complex implications of new wind farms on both natural and human systems. The investigators also will propose nationwide legal frameworks that accurately reflect the physical and economic impacts on wind farms' neighbors. Appropriate legal guidance can result in greater efficiencies and reduce waste of wind resources. Because it will couple physical, economic, and legal investigations, the project will help to reduce the frequency of adversarial, litigation-based solutions and maximize public benefit in a fair and predictable manner, thereby providing the policy tools to optimize the development of the nation's sustainable energy resources. 

The production of energy from wind has increased significantly over the past decade, and projections suggest this increase is likely to continue. The establishment of more turbines in large wind farms brings the growing risk of impacts on local environments, crops, and other wind farms, however. The investigators will integrate atmospheric science and economic impact studies along with systematic legal analyses to more effectively characterize the complex interactions among natural and human systems downwind from wind farms, and they will provide new insights regarding policy and other approaches to maximizing benefits while reducing risks. The researchers will use publicly available weather prediction to simulate wind farm impacts, which then will be compared to extensive datasets of wind, turbulence, and turbine power production data from three large wind farms in different regions of the country. If improvements to the representation of wind farms in weather models are required, these improvements will be made and made available for weather forecasters and others. The investigators will analyze the economic impacts of wind development on landowners within a wind farm and on downwind neighbors, and they will assess local, state, and national wind case law in order to understand whether and how wind farm atmospheric and economic impacts are accurately represented by current legal frameworks. This categorization and analysis will provide a new resource to other wind law researchers. The weather simulations and aggregated economic and legal data created in this project will be maintained on a publicly available data archive to enable future investigations of wind energy economic and legal impacts.





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