Visual impact is one of the main factors influencing the acceptance of wind farms by the public and by the authorities. It therefore often sets the environmental and social limits of energy policy and energy use. However, the assessment of visual impacts is subjective, as is often pointed out by critics of the evaluation process. The study presented here for the first time uses accurately and objectively measurable landscape indices to directly predict the visual impact of onshore wind turbines. The method also for the first time evaluates map-based landscape indices in a panoramic simulation, and this provides a better match of visual preferences with landscape indices than the cartographic projection used until now. 400 respondents from four Central European countries (Austria, Germany, Poland and Czechia) provided an evaluation of their scenic perception of 32 different landscapes, in each case with and without wind turbines. At the same time, we analysed 12 indices characterizing the principal landscape components (relief, land cover and landscape pattern) on the basis of the 32 landscape photographs. These were further tested as predictors of visual impact. The most prominent predictors of visual impact were the Percentage of Industrial Area (including Commercial, Logistic and Mining Areas), Percentage of Forest Cover, Density of Technical Infrastructure, Number of Elevation Landmarks, and Elevation Variation. None of the three landscape pattern indices was statistically significant. On the basis of a regression model that is able to predict the potential visual impact in large areas of four Central European countries (over 830,000 km2), we present the general principles of an objectivized method for predicting the visual impact of onshore wind farms. The method makes an automatic assessment of the visual impact in large areas of entire regions or countries via a GIS analysis of Sentinel data and DEM data. This forms a good basis for both preventive evaluation and causal evaluation, and provides significant support for objectivizing the planning and decision process in order to mitigate negative environmental and social impacts of the use of wind energy.
Predicting the visual impact of onshore wind farms via landscape indices: A method for objectivizing planning and decision processes
Title: Predicting the visual impact of onshore wind farms via landscape indices: A method for objectivizing planning and decision processes
January 01, 2018
Journal: Applied Energy
Sklenicka, P.; Zouhar, J. (2018). Predicting the visual impact of onshore wind farms via landscape indices: A method for objectivizing planning and decision processes. Applied Energy, 209, 445-454.