Advancing informed visual impact analysis and mitigation

Argonne National Laboratory's Environmental Science Division conducts research, assessment, and technology development projects to identify and mitigate the visual impacts of utility-scale energy facilities.

The Environmental Science Division (EVS) at Argonne National Laboratory conducts applied environmental research, assessments, and technology development for energy development and natural resource management. The Division's activities encompass a broad range of scientific disciplines, including visual resource analysis. The Division's visual resource research and development projects focus on the impacts of large-scale development of energy facilities to scenic, historic, and cultural resources.

Because of their large size, visual complexity, and reflective surfaces, utility-scale energy facilities may be visible for long distances and may contrast sharply with the natural or rural landscapes in which they are often located. In recent years, stakeholder concerns about the potential visual impacts of utility-scale renewable energy facilities have been a major factor in slowing or halting land-based wind energy and electric transmission projects—and these considerations are emerging as potential issues for both offshore wind energy and solar energy facilities in the United States. The potentially significant contribution of these resources to the nation's energy supply requires that their potential visual impacts be identified and mitigated to the extent possible.

Visual Resource Analysis Projects

Visual resource projects that are either currently under way or recently completed by EVS staff fall into the following four broad areas:

  • Perception of visual contrast from utility-scale energy facilities
  • Planning and siting of energy facilities to avoid or reduce potential visual impacts to sensitive visual resource areas
  • Visual impact assessment and mitigation guidance for renewable energy
  • Visual impact assessments developed as part of national- or regional-scale programmatic environmental impact statements (PEISs)

Follow the links in the menu at right to learn more about EVS research projects in these topic areas.

Other Projects

Other visual resource analysis projects under way at Argonne include research to: identify and mitigate the visual impacts of utility-scale solar facilities; assess night-sky impacts of lighting at wind energy facilities; identify priority areas for wind energy development on public lands in Wyoming; develop long-term monitoring procedures for assessing and mitigating visual impacts associated with solar energy facilities; and further develop and disseminate PVDcalc, a free software utility for calculating the proper viewing distance for visual impact simulations and landscape photographs.

For More Information

To learn more about EVS visual resource analysis projects, contact:

Project Links

Our visual resource projects fall into four broad areas. Follow the links below to learn more about these research projects: