Impact of Wind Turbines
Task 1: Project Planning
Task 2: Landscape: evaluation
Task 3: visual impact methods
Task 4: Tools for visual impact assessments
Task 5: Recommendations
General context for windfarm provision
General Discussion and Conclusions
Contract Details

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Further information



The UK government has a principal policy objective of 1500mW of new renewable electrical energy generating capacity in the UK by 2000. Their longer term goal is 20% of electrical energy from renewable resources by 2025. Wind energy is the most economically attractive renewable energy source at the moment; it could contribute around 20% of current electrical energy demands in Scotland.

A major obstacle in realising the potential for wind energy is concern about the visual impact of individual or groups of wind turbines. The participants in this project have brought together complementary skills to develop techniques for helping all those potentially affected by such developments to visualise wind farms and thus to improve their siting from an aesthetic or amenity point of view.

The scope of the report covers six reviews:

and worked examples of different approaches to quantitatative and qualitative assssments of the visual impact of wind turbines.

The key issue being addressed was how to assess and present the cumulative visual impact of wind turbines on the viewer. Wind turbines, whether individual or grouped into wind farms, are usually assessed in isolation of any other similar developments in the area but what approaches are available which can be used to assess the additive consequences of multiple turbines or farms?

The three approaches being considered are: geographic analysis, photographic modelling and 3D computer modelling; and the principal media being employed for presentation of the results is that of the World Wide Web.

Two study areas were selected for demonstrating the impact assessment methods where one area, in Wales, has experienced the developments of wind farms and the second, in Scotland, which has been identified as a site with potential for similar development.

The methods employed in the impact analysis covered three broad aspects:

  • Geographic measures of visibility;
  • Visualisation of the terrain and potential developments;
  • Psycho-physical analysis of the terrain and development, based upon photographic modelling. (Task 3)

In general, the software, hardware and data used in the undertaking of this project is widely, commercially, available and details are recorded in Appendices 4 and 5 of this report. The use of standard computing resources and spatial data permits wide use of the methods employed and repeatability of the processing for independent validation.

The presentation of the full copy of the report and analysis has been prepared and produced in Hyper Text Mark-Up Language (HTML) for viewing within browsers such as those produced by Netscape and Microsoft. The report has been made available on the World Wide Web (WWW) and on CD-ROM. Embedded within this report are selected three-dimensional datasets for exploration by the user to allow them to navigate around each study site and view the existing or proposed developments from different perspectives.

In conclusion, the report seeks to provide a basis for the reader to assess the factors to be considered in a visual impact assessment of wind farms from both a physical and psychological perspective and examples of how such impact assessments may be undertaken. The choice of media to communicate the results is, essentially, exploratory, and it is anticipated that feedback from readers will enable future refinement of this type of product.

Updated: 21 May 2020