Research highlight

Location of US industrial wind turbines mapped

Scientific Data

November 24, 2015

Detailed information on onshore industrial wind turbines in the United States, including their location, height, blade length and generating capacity, totalling 48,976 individual turbines, is catalogued and described online this week in Scientific Data. These geospatial data could be of use for scientific research, in applications such as investigating the interaction of birds with wind farms, as well as for regulatory purposes, such as land management and city planning.

Wind energy accounts for 31% of all US electricity production from renewable resources; however, a free, national, turbine-level dataset recording wind turbine location and specifications did not exist previously.

Jay Diffendorfer and colleagues collected and compiled wind turbine records from the early 1980s to March 2014 from various public sources, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and US Geological Survey, and then used aerial imagery to digitize or verify the position of the turbines. They mapped industrial turbines that are at least 30.5 meters tall and associated with centralized energy-generating facilities, but did not include small, decentralized turbines, associated with homes, ranches, or other applications. They also assigned specifications, including height, blade length, make, model and power generation capacity for each turbine mapped. On top of the static copy of the data made available alongside the Data Descriptor (a peer-reviewed article designed to maximize the reuse of a valuable research dataset, and enable searching, linking and data mining), the authors have published a user-friendly web-based interactive map of the data at They also provide online services that allow programmatic access to the data, and easy incorporation into other mapping tools and apps.

doi: 10.1038/sdata.2015.60

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