Scenicness assessment of onshore wind sites with geotagged photographs and impacts on approval and cost-efficiency

R. McKenna*, J. M. Weinand, I. Mulalic, S. Petrovic, K. Mainzer, T. Preis, H. S. Moat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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There have been objections to onshore wind turbines for aesthetic reasons, although a quantitative methodology to provide some assessment of the risk of such public objections has been missing. McKenna et al. develop a method to use geotagged photographs of landscapes to assess potential future public acceptance of projects. Cost-efficiency and public acceptance are competing objectives for onshore wind locations. The impact of 'scenicness' on these two objectives has been difficult to quantify for wind projects. We analyse the link between economic wind resources and beautiful landscapes with over 1.5 million 'scenicness' ratings of around 200,000 geotagged photographs from across Great Britain. We find evidence that planning applications for onshore wind are more likely to be rejected when proposed in more scenic areas. Compared to the technical potential of onshore wind of 1,700 TWh at a total cost of 280 pound billion, removing the 10% most scenic areas implies about 18% lower generation potential and 8-26% higher costs. We also consider connection distances to the nearest electricity network transformer, showing that the connection costs constitute up to half of the total costs. The results provide a quantitative framework for researchers and policymakers to consider the trade-offs between cost-efficiency and public acceptance for onshore wind.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Energy
Pages (from-to)663-672
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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