Scenicness assessment of onshore wind sites with geotagged photographs and impacts on approval and cost-efficiency

R. McKenna* (Corresponding Author), J. M. Weinand, I. Mulalic, S. Petrović, K. Mainzer, T. Preis, H. S. Moat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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Cost-efficiency and public acceptance are competing objectives for onshore wind locations. The impact of ‘scenicness’ on these two objectives has been difficult to quantify for wind projects. We analyse the link between economic wind resources and beautiful landscapes with over 1.5 million ‘scenicness’ ratings of around 200,000 geotagged photographs from across Great Britain. We find evidence that planning applications for onshore wind are more likely to be rejected when proposed in more scenic areas. Compared to the technical potential of onshore wind of 1,700 TWh at a total cost of £280 billion, removing the 10% most scenic areas implies about 18% lower generation potential and 8–26% higher costs. We also consider connection distances to the nearest electricity network transformer, showing that the connection costs constitute up to half of the total costs. The results provide a quantitative framework for researchers and policymakers to consider the trade-offs between cost-efficiency and public acceptance for onshore wind.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-672
Number of pages10
JournalNature Energy
Early online date3 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of D. Schlund, who carried out some of the wind analysis whilst a Student Assistant at KIT, as well as C. Moutard, on whose Master’s Thesis at DTU this article builds (Assessing the ‘acceptable’ onshore wind potential in the UK, 2019, M. D’Andrea, K. Paidis and T. Jaenicke supported the preparation of early versions of the manuscript whilst Student Assistants at DTU. I.M. gratefully acknowledges financial support from Kraks Fond, Copenhagen ( T.P. and H.S.M. are grateful for support from The Alan Turing Institute under the EPSRC grant EP/N510129/1 (including awards TU/B/000006 and TU/B/000008).

Data Availability Statement

Data Availability: The data employed in this paper can be accessed on Figshare at Source data can be accessed at the locations specified in the main text and the Methods.

Supplementary Information: Table 1 and Figs. 1 and 2.


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