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Blowing in the Wind: Evaluating Wind Energy Projects on the National Forests

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The 650 million ac of federal lands are facing increased scrutiny for wind energy development. As a result, the US Forest Service has been directed to develop policies and procedures for siting wind energy projects. We incorporate geospatial site suitability analysis with applicable policy and management principles to illustrate the use of a Spatial Decision Support System (SDSS) for evaluating the potential for wind energy development in the national forests. The SDSS is applied in a case study of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests (N&PNF), ranked by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as one of the top 25 national forests for wind energy development based on wind power, distance from transmission lines, distance from major roads, inventoried roadless areas and other specially designated areas, distance from urban areas, and topography (Karsteadt, R. et al. 2005. Assessing the potential for renewable energy on National Forest Systems lands. National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the US For. Serv. Available online at; last accessed Mar. 14, 2009). Our analysis further evaluates the N&PNF potential for wind energy development using 16 environmental, construction, land designation, and policy variables. We find that the majority of the N&PF is highly sensitive or exclusionary to wind energy development. Recommendations include the need for agencywide clarification of evaluation criteria for wind energy projects and prioritization of variables for evaluating future wind projects.

Keywords: geo-spatial analysis; national forests; spatial decision support system; wind energy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-04-01

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.476
    Ranking: 22 of 66 in forestry

    Average time from submission to first decision: 39.6 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

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