Landscape and visual impacts are among the most far-reaching effects of onshore wind farm developments. They are generally of greatest concern to the public, and are frequently the reason why wind farm proposals are opposed. However, changes to the landscape happen all the time, and as such wind farm developments can be accommodated in the landscape.
Wind energy developers generally avoid the most sensitive landscapes, such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and routinely undertake assessments of landscape and visual impact when preparing planning applications.
The objective of a landscape and visual impact assessment is to:
Because there are no clear criteria for defining significant effects in an assessment, both significant and non-significant effects are described to illustrate the thresholds used by the assessor.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) takes place alongside the landscape and visual impact assessment and the design of a wind farm layout. It is a continual process. Consideration of the landscape and visual effects of a proposal during the design process can produce schemes that are more acceptable, reducing or even removing any adverse impacts they might have.
Landscape and visual impact assessments are generally carried out in four stages:
A baseline study will provide a clear indication both of the aspects of the landscape and of the visual resource that may be affected by the proposed development.
Landscape effects can be either direct or indirect.
Visual effects are the potential visual impact a proposal will have on:
The landscape and visual assessment looks at the sensitivity of the baseline landscape and visual resource alongside the magnitude of the potential change as a result of the proposed development. This allows the assessor to decide whether any effects are ‘significant’ or ‘not significant’.
Any such effects are then considered in terms of whether they are:
The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC): Wind Power in the UK report was launched in May 2005. Full details of their findings on landscape & visual impact can be viewed in this report.