Wind-Abilities: A Mixed-Use Model for Thoughtful Wind Farm Design

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Virginia Tech

Globally, wind power is leading the renewable energy revolution. While carbon neutral and cost-effective, wind energy infrastructure is immobile and has the potential to profoundly change land use and the visible landscape. As wind technology takes its place as a key contributor to the US energy grid, it becomes clear that these types of projects will come into greater contact with areas occupied by humans, and eventually with wilderness and other more natural areas. This increased visibility and close proximity necessitates the development of future wind farm sites that afford opportunities for auxiliary uses while maintaining their intrinsic value as energy producers. In short, it is important for wind farms to be versatile because land is a finite resource and because over time, increasing numbers of these sites will occupy our landscapes.

In the Eastern US, the majority of onshore wind resources suitable for energy development are found along ridge lines in the Appalachian mountains. These mountains are ancient focal points in the landscape, and subsequently host myriad sites of historic, recreational, and scenic significance. In the future, these windswept ridges will likely become targets for wind energy development. This thesis demonstrates a methodology for the thoughtful siting and design of future wind projects in the Appalachian mountains. Opportunities for offsite views, diversified trail experiences, and planned timber harvests are realized by locating a seven-turbine wind park adjacent to the Appalachian Trail in Cherokee National Forest in Carter county, Tennessee. The proposed wind park demonstrates the sound possibility of thoughtfully integrating wind infrastructure along Appalachian ridges in conjunction with forestry and recreation opportunities, such as hiking and camping. The design is a wind park rather than a wind farm because in addition to its inherent function as a production landscape, it is also a place that is open to the general public for recreational use.

Renewable Energy, Wind Energy, Eco Recreation, Forestry, Silviculture, Conservation, Cherokee National Forest, Appalachian Trail