This study examines the possible impacts of real-world wind farms (WFs) on vegetation growth using two vegetation indices (VIs), the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), at a ~250 m resolution from the MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradimeter (MODIS) for the period 2003–2014. We focus on two well-studied large WF regions, one in western Texas and the other in northern Illinois. These two regions differ distinctively in terms of land cover, topography, and background climate, allowing us to examine whether the WF impacts on vegetation, if any, vary due to the differences in atmospheric and boundary conditions. We use three methods (spatial coupling analysis, time series analysis, and seasonal cycle analysis) and consider two groups of pixels, wind farm pixels (WFPs) and non-wind-farm pixels (NWFPs), to quantify and attribute such impacts during the pre- and post-turbine periods. Our results indicate that the WFs have insignificant or no detectible impacts on local vegetation growth. At the pixel level, the VI changes demonstrate a random nature and have no spatial coupling with the WF layout. At the regional level, there is no systematic shift in vegetation greenness between the pre- and post-turbine periods. At interannual and seasonal time scales, there are no confident vegetation changes over WFPs relative to NWFPs. These results remain robust when the pre- and post-turbine periods and NWFPs are defined differently. Most importantly, the majority of the VI changes are within the MODIS data uncertainty, suggesting that the WF impacts on vegetation, if any, cannot be separated confidently from the data uncertainty and noise. Overall, there are some small decreases in vegetation greenness over WF regions, but no convincing observational evidence is found for the impacts of operating WFs on vegetation growth.
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