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Wind farms and groundwater impacts: A practice guide to EIA and Planning considerations 

Author:  | Environment, Northern Ireland, Photos

What impact can a wind farm have on groundwater?

The development of a wind farm has the potential to impact on groundwater quality, groundwater quantity and/or the established groundwater flow regime. Figure 1 shows the scale and extent of the foundation of a single wind turbine which could potentially impact on the aquatic environment. Changes to the local water environment can affect receptors such as wells/boreholes, springs, wetlands and waterways, and can also have implications for groundwater dependent ecology and/or land stability.

Figure 1: Construction of the foundation of a single wind turbine.

The key impacts to groundwater that can result from the construction, operational and decommissioning stages of wind farms are summarised in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Potential impacts on groundwater from wind farms

Construction Phase Operational Phase Decommissioning Phase
Groundwater Flow Regime Earthworks and site drainage:
• Reduction in water table if dewatering is required for turbine foundation construction or borrow pits;
• Changes to groundwater distribution and flow.
Physical presence of turbines and tracks:
• Possible changes to groundwater distribution;
• Reduction in groundwater storage.
Reduction of forestry in site area:
• Changes to infiltration and surface runoff patterns, thereby influencing groundwater flow and distribution.
Physical presence of former turbines and tracks:
• Possible changes to groundwater distribution;
• Reduction in groundwater storage.
Groundwater Quality Earthworks:
• Disturbance of contaminated soil and subsequent groundwater pollution.
Materials Management:
• Pollution from spills or leaks of fuel, oil and building materials.
Materials Management:
• Pollution from spills or leaks of fuel or oil.
Use of vehicles and machinery to remove infrastructure:
• Pollution from spills or leaks of fuel or oil.

Download original document: “Wind farms and groundwater impacts

This material is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this material resides with the author(s). As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Queries e-mail.

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