Environmental Science Division (EVS) a Division of Argonne National Laboratory
Program Highlights Index

Visual Impacts of Energy Facilities

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.

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.

The EVS Division has undertaken a number of studies to analyze visual resources. Detailed information about this work is online at http://visualimpact.anl.gov/.

The studies fall into four broad areas:

  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 to sensitive visual resource areas. This work develops geographic information system-based tools for accurate prediction of visual impacts and, in a new project, is developing 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.

Related Program Areas

See the Program Highlights Index for a complete list of EVS program highlights.

photo of Robert Sullivan
Environmental Scientist/Team Lead
Capabilities: Research in visual impact assessment and mitigation for utility-scale energy systems; application of geospatial methods and technology to visual impact analysis; web site and software design and development; information architecture.