An open source GIS tool to quantify the visual impact of wind turbines and photovoltaic panels

Annalisa Minelli, Ivan Marchesini, Faith E. Taylor, Pierluigi De Rosa, Luca Casagrande, Michele Cenci

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Although there are clear economic and environmental incentives for producing energy from solar and wind power, there can be local opposition to their installation due to their impact upon the landscape. To date, no international guidelines exist to guide quantitative visual impact assessment of these facilities, making the planning process somewhat subjective. In this paper we demonstrate the development of a method and an Open Source GIS tool to quantitatively assess the visual impact of these facilities using line-of-site techniques. The methods here build upon previous studies by (i) more accurately representing the shape of energy producing facilities, (ii) taking into account the distortion of the perceived shape and size of facilities caused by the location of the observer, (iii) calculating the possible obscuring of facilities caused by terrain morphology and (iv) allowing the combination of various facilities to more accurately represent the landscape. The tool has been applied to real and synthetic case studies and compared to recently published results from other models, and demonstrates an improvement in accuracy of the calculated visual impact of facilities. The tool is named r.wind.sun and is freely available from GRASS GIS AddOns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-78
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Early online date3 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • visual impact
  • photovoltaic panels
  • wind turbines
  • landscape


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