Environmental Impacts of Renewable Energy: Gone with the Wind?

  • Viktor KouloumpisEmail author
  • Xiongwei Liu
  • Elspeth Lees
Part of the Lecture Notes in Energy book series (LNEN, volume 23)


Wind energy is constantly gaining ground, especially in the UK, helping to tackle climate change and support energy security as the country wants to become less dependent to imported fossil fuels like coal and gas. Nevertheless, wind farm life cycle environmental impacts are not negligible and the construction and operation of wind turbine generators can cause several environmental impacts to the area where they have been sited. Therefore, it is reasonable to question, (a) whether there are “hidden” environmental impacts from the use of renewable energy technologies, and (b) whether supporting wind energy in order to displace fossil fuels just substitutes one environmental problem with another one (or more). This chapter uses UK as a case-study to describe thorough processes of environmental assessment and the environmental impacts related to wind energy. This lecture creates a pallet of potential issues that should be taken into account with regards to implementing environmental energy governance practices. The two methods used here, are (a) the Environmental Impact Assessment approach (used to identify on-site impacts that wind farms have on the environment) and (b) the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach, which connects the energy, material, wastes and emissions with a wide range of environmental impact categories. The findings could change the way we think about wind energy and might make it easy to understand why there are still people who are opposed to the development of wind farms.


Life Cycle Assessment Wind Turbine Wind Power Wind Farm Global Warming Potential 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Allwood J, Cullen J (2012) Sustainable materials: with both eyes open. UIT Cambridge, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Azapagic A et al (2011) Assessing the sustainability of nuclear power in the UK. Accessed 22 March 2012
  3. BBC (2008) Wind farm rejected over bat fears. BBC News, 29 February. Accessed 24 May 2013
  4. Berglund B, Lindvall T, Schwela D (1999) Guidelines for community noise. Geneva: World Health Organization (outcome of WHO expert task force meeting: London). Accessed 28 Feb 2013
  5. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) (1996) The assessment and rating on noise from wind turbines. ETSU-R-97. Working Group on Noise from Wind Turbines. Final ReportGoogle Scholar
  6. Centre for Sustainable Energy (2011) Common concerns about wind power. Accessed 22 Dec 2012
  7. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) (2002) Wind energy and aviation interest interim guidelines. Accessed 22 Dec 2012
  8. European Commission (EC) (2011) Directive 2011/92/EC of the European Parliament and of the council on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. Accessed 22 Dec 2012
  9. European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) (2009) Wind energy—the facts: a guide to the technology, economics and future of wind power. Accessed 22 Dec 2012
  10. Howard M, Brown C (2004) Results of the electromagnetic investigations and assessments of marine radar, communications and positioning systems undertaken at the North Hoyle wind farm. Accessed 22 Dec 2012
  11. International Organization for Standardization (ISO) (2006) ISO/DIS 14040 environmental management—life cycle assessment—principles and framework. GenevaGoogle Scholar
  12. Langston R, Pullan J (2003) Wind farms and birds: an analysis of the effects of wind farms on birds, and guidance on environmental assessment criteria and site selection issues. Accessed 22 Dec 2012
  13. Macalister T (2012) Wind farm scrapped over fears for birds. The Guardian, 6 July 2012. Accessed 24 May 2013
  14. Natural England (2012) Bats and onshore wind turbines: interim guidance. Technical Information Note TIN051 Sheffield Accessed 22 Dec 2012
  15. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) (2006) Houses of Parliament (UK), Carbon footprint of electricity generation, Number 268. Accessed 22 Oct 2012
  16. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) (2011) Houses of Parliament (UK), Carbon footprint of electricity generation, Number 383. Accessed 22 Oct 2012
  17. Reoch P (2013) Mull Hill wind farm plan rejected, The Courier, May 23 Accessed 24 May 2013
  18. Shankleman J (2011) Couple seek £2.5 m damages over noisy wind turbines. Business Green. Accessed 24 May 2013
  19. Smedley A, Webb A, Wilkins A (2010) Potential of wind turbines to elicit seizures under various meteorological conditions. Epilepsia 51:1146–1151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories (SCLCI)(1998) Ecoinvent database. Accessed 22 Dec 2012
  21. University of Minnesota (2010) Iron nitride permanent magnet, alternative to rare earth and neodymium magnets.–Alternative-to-Rare-Earth-and-Neodymium-Magnets_20120016.aspx. Accessed 28 Feb 2013
  22. Vestas (2006) Life cycle assessment of offshore and onshore sited wind power plants based on Vestas V90–3.0 MW turbines. Accessed 22 Dec 2012
  23. Worrall F, Chapman P, Holden J, Evans C, Artz R, Smith P, Grayson R (2010) Peatlands and climate change.,%20June%202011%20Final.pdf. Accessed 22 Dec 2012

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Health and ScienceUniversity of CumbriaCarlisleUK

Personalised recommendations