Grand challenges in the science of wind energy

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Science  25 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6464, eaau2027
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau2027

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  • The fourth grand challenge in the science of wind energy: minimizing biodiversity impacts

    Jethro Gauld(1), Leon Bennun (2), Aonghais Cook(3), Ben Jobson(4), Steffen Oppel (4), Tristram SM Allinson(4), Aldina Franco(1), Richard Gregory (5), Rhys Green(6), Liz Humphreys(3), Aly McCluskie(5), Silviu Petrovan(6), João Paulo Silva(7), Chris Thaxter(3), Saskia Wischnewski(5), Lucy Wright(5)

    1. University of East Anglia 2. The Biodiversity Consultancy 3. British Trust for Ornithology 4. Birdlife International 5. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds 6. University of Cambridge 7. CIBIO

    Correspondence to: and

    Main Text of Letter:

    Rapid expansion of wind energy production is vital to avert the climate crisis caused by fossil fuel use. Veers et al. [1] highlight the interdisciplinary collaboration needed to overcome three grand challenges in science and engineering for wind energy. A fourth grand challenge relating to the sometimes significant ecological impacts of wind energy must be considered because our planet is also experiencing a biodiversity crisis [2–4]. Real or perceived wildlife impacts from wind farms, can cause public resistance towards projects, resulting in delays and loss of political support[5]. A proactive approach to biodiversity issues can save time, money and boost public perception of the wind industry[2,5].

    Wind turbines and associated infrastructur...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Why ignore a major challenge of wind energy science?
    • Christian Brannstrom, Professor, Texas A&M University
    • Other Contributors:
      • Martin J. Pasqualetti, Professor, Arizona State University
      • Adryane Gorayeb, Professor, Universidade Federal do Ceará
      • Maarten Wolsink, Professor, University of Amsterdam
      • Michael Slattery, Professor, Texas Christian University
      • Patrick Devine-Wright, Professor, University of Exeter
      • Benjamin Sovacool, Professor, University of Sussex

    Veers et al. [1] describe three “grand challenges” in wind energy science confronting goals of increasing the contribution of wind power to global electricity supply. Their “Review Summary” could not cover every aspect of wind power, but we must identify their most significant omission concerning findings about the most complicated barrier to a meaningful contribution of wind power to decarbonization.
    Many social scientists investigate the social acceptance of wind energy and other renewable technologies [2, 3, 4, 5]. Renewable-power infrastructure—including storage and transmission facilities— requires large spatial footprints because of low power density [6, 7]. The territorial challenges of on- and offshore wind raise institutional, political, social, and ethical questions. What are the optimal institutional arrangements, in terms of competing land use, landscape issues [8, 9, 10], rents [11], royalties, and ownership [12], that increase support from host communities? How can we maximize economic impacts, ranging from employment and taxation to agglomeration economies, to increase support among crucial actors in decision making about wind projects [13, 14]? How does wind-power deployment adhere to justice principles such as participation of residents in decision-making, especially in autocratic political contexts [15]? How can wind-power development avoid exacerbating corrupt practices and increased concentration of power among elites [16]? How can host comm...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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