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A case study on visual impact assessment for wind energy development

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Wind energy development is expanding. Preparations for wind farms include environmental impact assessments, specifically with visual impact assessments (VIAs). Often using simulated photographs, VIAs depict the post-development landscape appearance with new wind energy structures. This Ontario case study compares simulated photographs submitted as part of a VIA with post-development conditions. Simulations were judged for accuracy in turbine number, height, diameter, and location, and adequacy in representation of built conditions. Simulations were partially representative of postdevelopment conditions, yet commonly under-represented turbine number and size in different locations than they were built. Simulation frames were too narrow to adequately represent human vision and simulations under-estimated how many wind turbines were visible from a single landscape position. Outcomes suggest that visual simulations can lack accuracy or representativeness, misleading the public. Adopting province-wide VIA criteria and increasing adherence to visual simulation guidance may be necessary to improve the accuracy and representativeness of VIA content.
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Keywords: Canada; Ontario; environmental screening; green energy; transmission lines; visual simulation; wind turbines

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph, Guelph Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1, +1 519 824 4120 ext. 58034 < xmlns:xlink="" xlink:href="">[email protected], Email: [email protected], URL:

Publication date: 2011-12-01

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