February 24


Traffic Impacts of Wind Farms

By Mike Spack

February 24, 2011

Wind Farm Traffic Wind Farm Road Impacts

Windmill Aside from the very occasional visit from a windmill aficionado, wind farms don’t generate a lot of vehicle traffic.  But as the county engineers near the Buffalo Ridge in southwestern Minnesota know too well, that doesn’t mean wind farms don’t have an impact on the transportation system.  Each wind turbine weighs about 200,000 pounds, delivered in pieces with each truck load weighing upwards of 50,000 pounds.  These are very big, very heavy tractor trailer deliveries.

The pavement in the interstate system was designed to take the beating dished out by these deliveries, but the local roads used to get to the rural wind farm sites often don’t have pavement designed to handle these large deliveries.  The last legs of the delivery may very well be made on a gravel road.  The damage caused by these deliveries can be a huge burden to the local road authorities if remedies for addressing roads damaged by the wind turbine delivery weren’t made during the wind farm’s approval process.

The Minnesota Local Road Research Board has developed tools to help local agencies hold developers of wind farms (or other land developments with significant trucking that may damage local roadways) responsible for any road damage they cause.  The Best Practices: Managing Interactions between Local Authorities and Major Traffic Generators can be found online at http://www.lrrb.org/trafcalc.aspx.  The interactive document includes the following useful information:

  • Sample ordinances, permits, agreements, and maps
  • Traffic calculator spreadsheet to quantify the traffic impact on roads and its associated costs
  • Policy options to recapture roadway maintenance costs

The Best Practices toolkit was assembled for the Local Road Research Board by SRF Consulting Group and Richard L. Kronick & Associates.  But just as important, the overall project was guided by a technical advisory group that consisted of representatives from many agencies including seven counties who have dealt with the impacts of wind farms.  Their first hand experience is woven throughout the interactive document.

If you’re in an area that may have future wind farm development, the Best Practices toolkit will help your agency protect its roadway infrastructure.


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Mike Spack

My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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