Exploring trade-offs between landscape impact, land use and resource quality for onshore variable renewable energy: An application to Great Britain

R. McKenna* (Corresponding Author), I. Mulalic, I. Soutar, J.M. Weinand, J. Price, S. Petrović, K. Mainzer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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The ambitious Net Zero aspirations of Great Britain (GB) require massive and rapid developments of Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) technologies. GB possesses substantial resources for these technologies, but questions remain about which VRE should be exploited where. This study develops a transferable methodology to explore the trade-offs between landscape impact, land use competition and resource quality for onshore wind as well as ground- and roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) systems for the first time across GB. These trade-offs constrain the technical and economic potentials for these technologies at the Local Authority level. Our approach combines techno-economic and geospatial analyses with crowd-sourced ‘scenicness’ data to quantify landscape aesthetics. Despite strong correlations between scenicness and planning application outcomes for onshore wind, no such relationship exists for ground-mounted PV. The innovative method for rooftop-PV assessment combines bottom-up analysis of four cities with a top-down approach at the national level. The results show large technical potentials that are strongly constrained by both landscape and land use aspects. This equates to about 1324 TWh of onshore wind, 153 TWh of rooftop PV and 1200–7093 TWh ground-mounted PV, depending on scenario. We conclude with five recommendations that focus around aligning energy and planning policies for VRE technologies across multiple scales and governance arenas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number123754
Early online date16 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of David Schlund, who carried out some of the wind analysis whilst a Student Assistant at KIT, as well as Camille Moutard, upon whose Master Thesis at DTU this article builds (Assessing the ‘acceptable’ onshore wind potential in the UK, 2019, https://findit.dtu.dk/en/catalog/2451029061). The authors also gratefully acknowledge the anonymous feedback from three anonymous referees on an earlier version of this paper. The usual disclaimer applies.

Credit author statement
Conceptualisation: RM, IM, JMW; Methodology: all; Software: RM, IM, JMW, JP, SP; Data curation: RM, IM, JMW, JP, SP; Writing – Original Draft: All, Writing – Review & Editing: All; Visualisation: IM, JMW, JP, SP; Supervision: RM; Project Administration: RM.


  • Resource assessments
  • Renewable energies
  • Scenicness
  • Onshore wind
  • Solar PV
  • Visual impact
  • GIS
  • Land use competition


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