The United States energy industry is transforming with the rapid development of alternative energy sources and technological advancements in fossil fuels. Two major changes include the growth of wind turbines and unconventional oil and gas. We measured land-use impacts and ecosystem services costs of unconventional gas and wind energy development within the Anadarko Basin of the Oklahoma Woodford Shale, an area that has experienced large increases in both energy sectors.
Unconventional gas wells developed three times as much land compared to wind turbines (on a per unit basis), resulting in higher ecosystem services costs for gas. Gas wells had higher impacts on intensive agricultural lands (i.e. row crops) compared to wind turbines which had higher impacts on natural grasslands/pastures. Because wind turbines produced on average less energy compared to gas wells, the average ecosystem cost per gigajoule of energy produced was almost the same. Our results demonstrate that both unconventional gas and wind energy have substantial impacts on land-use, which likely affect wildlife populations and ecosystem services. Although wind energy does not have the associated greenhouse gas emissions, we suggest that the direct impacts on ecosystems and land conservation efforts are similar to unconventional fossil fuels. Considering the expected rapid global expansion of these two forms of energy production, many ecosystems are likely to be at risk.