Wind Energy Projects and the Viewshed

Do Wind Turbines Cause Disruption to Viewshed?

Like any energy project, wind energy project installations may alter views that members of the neighboring community are accustomed to. Visual impact analyses can accurately portray how wind turbines affect aesthetics and help local residents better understand what a project might look like when completed.

Additionally, location planning efforts, development regulations, and the type of wind energy project can help mitigate any local viewshed impacts.

Addressing Concerns About Wind Turbine Aesthetics

Surveys have been conducted in New England communities with modern wind power facilities to solicit public perceptions on aesthetics. Like many other surveys conducted elsewhere, the findings generally support the proposition that well-sited wind farms experience increased acceptance following construction.

How Can Siting Limit the Impact of Wind Energy on Views?

Wind project site selection, or “siting,” describes the process of planning and choosing where a wind energy project will be developed.

Elements of the siting process include analyzing wind patterns and geological obstacles. However, another crucial part of proper siting is minimizing impacts on view for local communities.

On a local level, ordinances can prescribe a setback distance, which is the minimum distance between a wind turbine and existing property boundaries.

Additionally, thanks to its compact nature, distributed wind energy (small-scale wind projects intended to serve on-site energy demand or support operation of local electricity distribution networks) have a lower overall impact on a community’s viewshed.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management oversees development of offshore wind energy installations, including fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind energy projects off U.S. coasts. Empowered by the Energy Policy Act, the bureau regulates renewable energy projects in federal waters, including their siting through site assessments, which ensure consideration of viewing impacts as well as ocean co-use and environmental concerns for wind turbines and other infrastructure, which typically place them over 25 miles from coastlines.

Can Homeowners Associations Prohibit Wind Turbines?

Even with proper siting and smaller-sized wind turbines in distributed wind energy systems, homeowners associations (HOAs) and neighbors living in close proximity to the installation may still have concerns.

In some states, it is illegal for HOAs to ban the installation of wind turbines, which are also commonly referred to as “wind-electric generators” in legislation. Laws outlining the power of HOAs to restrict clean energy devices on private property vary widely by state.

If you are interested in installing a wind energy project on your property, be sure to research your state’s current HOA laws, as well as county and city ordinances.