As part of the President's Climate Action Plan to move the economy toward clean energy sources, reduce carbon pollution and create jobs, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle today joined the U.S. Geological Survey to release the first publicly available interactive map and geo-dataset showing more than 47,000 onshore wind turbine locations and related information across the entire United States. The new tool is consistent with the goals of Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell's Order (No. 3330) that was released in October to incorporate a landscape-level approach to development on public lands.
"In making this critical information available to the public, the USGS has provided public agencies and private companies with a new tool to help guide smart landscape-level planning decisions that support domestic energy production while minimizing conflicts," said Secretary Jewell. "The data will help improve the siting of future wind energy projects as well as aid land managers in devising more up-to-date land-use and multiple-use plans."
The wind turbine map, which includes turbines installed as of July 2013, was created by combining publicly available data sets from the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as other federal, state and local sources. USGS researchers also identified additional turbines not in those pre-existing databases and added them to the dataset and map. The locations of all turbines were visually verified using high-resolution imagery. The location of each turbine was verified to within plus or minus 10 meters, and its technical specifications were assigned based on the make and model.
Before the release of the interactive map today, some individual state maps with turbine information and national maps of facility information existed, but there were no national maps with turbine-specific information and verified locations.
"In addition to informing siting decisions for future wind energy projects, this fundamental, nationwide data will support research on wind generation efficiency, economic impacts, and applied science for reducing wildlife impacts," said Castle. "Just as we need basic information about stream flows to support good water administration decisions, we must have accurate data on wind generation to better understand and support this important source of renewable energy."
"Having wind turbine-level data available in this new format will improve scientists' ability to study a number of factors associated with renewable energy development, including air wakes caused by the turbines, interactions between wind turbines and ground-based radar, and how wind facilities overlap with migratory bird flyways," said USGS Energy Resources Program Coordinator Brenda Pierce, who led the two-year project. "Building on the map and dataset, the USGS will utilize research, modeling and monitoring data to develop a quantitative methodology to assess the potential impacts associated with the widespread development of wind energy on wildlife."
The President's Climate Action Plan directs the Department of the Interior by 2020 to permit 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy on public lands, or enough to power more than 6 million homes. Since 2009, the Interior Department has approved 48 solar, wind and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands, including associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects add up to more than 13,300 megawatts -- enough energy to power nearly 4.62 million homes and support more than 19,900 construction and operations jobs.