The bigger picture
Renewable energy technologies are necessary to maintain secure energy supplies and limit the impacts of climate change. Developments of these technologies are mostly planned purely based on economic criteria, but this can lead to resistance in local communities. Among the diverse renewable technologies, especially onshore wind turbines may negatively affect the scenicness of beautiful landscapes. We analyze how cost-efficient local energy systems could be impacted through public opposition toward onshore wind. In doing so, we draw on a database of public evaluation of landscape beauty across Germany. In the energy systems of German municipalities with high scenicness, onshore wind would mainly be replaced by solar photovoltaics. Depending on the location, the local energy systems may be associated with a significant increase in costs and CO2 emissions. These insights can support local and national stakeholders in making decisions relating to energy and climate policy.
Local resistance often hinders renewable energy technology developments, especially for onshore wind. In decentralized energy systems, the landscape impact of wind turbines or transmission lines is a key barrier to public acceptance. By using landscape scenicness as a proxy for public acceptance, we quantify its impact on the optimal energy systems of 11,131 German municipalities. In municipalities with high scenicness, it is likely that onshore wind will be rejected, leading to higher levelized costs of energy by up to about 7 €-cent/kWh. Onshore wind would be replaced mainly by solar photovoltaics and imports, and the cost-optimal energy systems would be associated with higher CO2 emissions of up to about 200 gCO2/kWh compared with an average of around 50 gCO2/kWh. The findings help to identify municipalities where public resistance to onshore wind could be particularly high and support the scientific and policy debate about the location of onshore wind farms.