Wind is a renewable source of energy but its development has the potential for
significant negative visual, economic and environmental impacts if not sited carefully.
Analysis of a wide range of variables associated with wind development need to be
included in policy development to ensure simultaneous conservation and support of
renewable energy development. The objective of this project is to analyze wind energy
development to inform US Forest Service management practices through applicable
federal, agency, forest and state regulations as well as mitigation of potential impacts.
Geospatial analysis is used to evaluate project suitability and associated impacts
through a case study of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina.
This case study is the basis for a spatial decision support system (sDSS) which offers
methodology to consolidate the assessment and authorization process for wind projects
on public lands. Based on 16 variables of representing environmental sensitivities,
construction requirements, land designations and state policy, this analysis finds
that the majority of the study is are highly sensitive or exclusionary to wind energy
development. To both promote renewable energy and continued conservation of environmental
resources, the Forest Service must take steps to address concerns raised over management
practices limiting development potential. Recommendations from this analysis include
the need for agency wide clarification of intent and scope of current and proposed
Forest Service wind energy management, as well as the prioritization of variable importance
in future wind project siting.