Recent long term planning studies have demonstrated the important role of variable renewables (VRE) in decarbonising our energy system. However, cost-optimising models do not capture the visual impact of VREs on the landscape which can act to undermine their public acceptability. Here, we use crowd-sourced scenicness data to derive spatially explicit wind energy capacity potentials for three scenarios of public sensitivity to this visual impact. We then use these scenarios in a cost-optimising model of the GB power system to assess their impact on the cost and design of the electricity system in 2050. Our results show that total system costs can increase by up to 14.2% when public sensitivity to visual impact is high compared to low. It is thus essential for policy makers to consider these cost implications and to find mechanisms to ameliorate the visual impact of onshore wind in local communities.
Bibliographical noteThe authors gratefully acknowledge the support of David Schlund, who carried out some of the analysis of onshore wind potentials whilst a Student Assistant at KIT, Germany, as well as Camille Moutard, whose Master Thesis at DTU (as cited in the text) provided some helpful inputs to this work. The usual disclaimer applies
This work was supported by the REEEM project from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme under grant agreement 691739