Quantifying impacts of onshore wind farms on ecosystem services at local and global scales

Shifeng Wang, Sicong Wang, Pete Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Energy technologies have both local and global impacts on ecosystem services, with local impacts occurring where the energy is generated, and global impacts occurring where energy feedstock or raw materials for energy infrastructure are sourced. Assessing these impacts in both local and remote locations is important but challenging. In this paper we present a first attempt to quantify the impacts of onshore wind farms on ecosystem services for the UK at local and global scales, building on approaches used for life cycle analyses of energy technologies, that consider the provenance of materials used for energy infrastructure. We first identify the lifecycle processes of onshore wind farms, and then use a systematic literature review of local impacts of onshore wind farms on ecosystem services and a 'Broadbrush' approach for global impacts. Results show that onshore wind farms tend to have significant positive local impacts on primary production and air quality, and tend to have negative local impacts on soil, water and livestock which are mostly associated with the operational and decommissioning stages of wind turbines in the UK. At global scale, onshore wind farms tend to have negative impacts on a number of ecosystem services, due to the processes associated with the mining of steel and concrete in other parts of the world, but this is common to all energy infrastructures. These should help wind farm developers and researchers identify and avoid adverse impacts of onshore wind farms on ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1424-1428
Number of pages5
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Early online date27 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) award : ‘Integrated approaches to ecosystem services and energy: Assessing the global and local impacts on ecosystem services of energy provision in the UK’ (Grant no.: NE/GOO7748/1 ). SW is also funded by UK EPSRC and ESRC award : “ iBUILD: Infrastructure Business models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery ” (Grant no.: EP/K012398/1 ).


  • Ecosystem services
  • Life-cycle analysis
  • Onshore wind farm
  • Renewable energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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