A number of analysts have argued that decisions about renewable energy technologies and targets need to be reconciled with the social and environmental contexts in which those technologies are adopted. However, an unresolved issue is how the contextually-embedded qualities of landscape might be represented at the national level, alongside other energy policy considerations like resource availability, economic efficiency and technical feasibility. To explore the dilemmas of this enterprise, this work examines the efforts of the Welsh Assembly Government to develop a spatial planning framework for wind energy. The work examines how particular landscapes became identified as ‘acceptable locations’ for wind farms, and the consequences. Four sets of findings are discussed: the selectivity with which landscape qualities enter strategic planning rationalities, favouring qualities that are formally demarcated and measurable ‘at a distance’; the tendency of the identified strategic search areas for wind to reinforce the degraded status of afforested upland areas; the extent to which the planning framework has rendered certain environmental qualities malleable; and the way that drawing boundaries around acceptable locations for large-scale wind energy development may restrict the scope for future reflexivity in energy policy.