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United Kingdom

Harmonising with the landscape, Wind farm aesthetics

Wind farm design should be conditioned by the landscape's characteristics and it is imperative that any development seems honest, rational and harmonious. These are two of the key conclusions from a new UK report: The Landscape Impact and Visual Design of Wind Farms, published by the School of Landscape Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art. By landscape architect Caroline Stanton, the report aims to provide guidelines on locating and designing wind farms and discusses the visual impact of wind turbines in different types of landscapes. She envisages it will be of most use to developers, landscape architects and planners.

Interestingly, the report points out that locating turbines below the skyline in the belief this will reduce visual impact -- as is often the case in Britain -- may in fact have the opposite effect. This is due to the contrast of turbine colour and because the visual relationship between the wind farm and skyline varies as the viewer moves. Since there tends to be an expectation that wind developments should relate to the windiest of sites -- or high points, siting turbines below the skyline may appear irrational. "The location of a wind farm is É about honestly portraying a form in direct relation to its function and our culture; by compromising this relationship, a negative image of attempted camouflage can occur," writes the author. Turbine size should relate to the scale of the surrounding landscape, continues the report. Larger wind turbines do not necessarily result in greater visual impact than smaller ones. And a development's impact is not directly proportional to the number of turbines.

The report finds that many people opposed to wind development have difficulty in associating it with their own electricity consumption. It says people must be made aware of the connection. Controversially, the report argues that wind developments should not be excluded from protected landscapes. Many visual problems arise because of lack of attention to the design and layout of turbines. Landscape architects "must assert their capability to positively contribute to wind farm design."

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