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Environmental Science Division

Visual Impacts of Energy Facilities

Potential visual effects of utility-scale energy facilities on the nation’s scenic, cultural, and historic resources have become a factor in slowing or halting energy and electric transmission projects.

Concerns about the potential visual effects of utility-scale energy facilities on the nation’s scenic, cultural, and historic resources have become a factor in slowing or halting energy and electric transmission projects. Because these projects are so important to the nation’s energy supply, their potential visual impacts need to be identified and mitigated.

EVS has undertaken a number of studies to analyze visual resources. The studies fall into four broad categories:

  1. Perception of visual contrasts from utility-scale energy facilities. These field studies identify the visual characteristics of energy facilities and identify and analyze factors that cause the facilities to contrast with the natural landscape.
  2. Planning and siting of energy facilities to avoid or reduce potential visual impacts on sensitive visual resource areas. This work develops geographic information system-based tools for accurate prediction of visual impacts. The work included development of a systematic approach for inventorying and classifying scenic landscapes near U.S. national parks and monuments. 
  3. Visual impact assessment and mitigation guidance for renewable energy. Products of this effort include a handbook for the Bureau of Land Management of best practices for mitigating the visual impacts of utility-scale energy facilities and guidance to help National Park Service staff evaluate the quality of visual impact assessments for energy development projects.
  4. Visual impact assessments as part of national- or regional-scale programmatic environmental impact statements related to a variety of large-scale energy development projects.