Reversing visibility analysis: Towards an accelerated a priori assessment of landscape impacts of renewable energy projects

R. Ioannidis, N. Mamassis, A. Efstratiadis, and D. Koutsoyiannis, Reversing visibility analysis: Towards an accelerated a priori assessment of landscape impacts of renewable energy projects, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 161, 112389, doi:10.1016/j.rser.2022.112389, 2022.

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[English]

Impacts to landscapes have been identified as major drivers of social opposition against renewable energy projects. We investigate how the process of mitigating landscape impacts can be improved and accelerated, through a re-conceptualization of visibility analysis.

In their conventional format, visibility analyses cannot be implemented in early planning phases as they require the finalized locations of projects as input. Thus, visual impacts to landscapes cannot be assessed until late in development, when licensing procedures have already begun and projects' locations have already been finalized. In order to overcome this issue and facilitate the earlier identification of impactful projects we investigate the reversal of visibility analyses. By shifting the focus of the analyses from the infrastructure that generates visual impacts to the areas that have to be protected from these impacts, visibility analyses no longer require projects' locations as input. This methodological shift is initially investigated theoretically and then practically, in the region of Thessaly, Greece, computing Reverse - Zones of Theoretical Visibility (R-ZTVs) for important landscape elements of the region, in order to then project visual impacts to them by planned wind energy projects.

It was demonstrated that reversing visibility analyses (a) enables the creation of R-ZTV-type maps that facilitate the anticipation of landscape impacts of projects from earlier planning stages and (b) discards the requirement for individual visibility analyses for each new project, thus accelerating project development. Furthermore, R-ZTV maps can be utilized in participatory planning processes or be used independently by projects' investors and by stakeholders in landscape protection.

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Tagged under: Renewable energy