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Visual Impact Evaluation System for Offshore Renewable Energy

VIESORE is a GIS-based software system for developing spatially accurate visualizations of offshore renewable energy facilities.

The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which has jurisdiction over energy development in the United States Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), is addressing increasing interest in using these waters for offshore renewable energy development, primarily offshore wind and wave energy facilities. The potential for offshore wind facilities to cause visual impacts on coastal lands has emerged as a major concern both in Europe and the United States. As part of its review and approval of offshore energy development, BOEM must incorporate visual impact analysis into its decisions.

Desired Visualization Capabilities

As a result, BOEM identified the need for sophisticated but easy-to-use visualization tools that it could use to help it: evaluate the accuracy and realism of the visual impact simulations provided by developers proposing to build offshore wind and wave energy facilities; develop its own visualizations for in-house planning purposes; and develop visualizations for engaging stakeholders in discussions about the potential visual impacts of offshore facilities. BOEM sought a system that must be:

  1. Spatially accurate;
  2. Capable of achieving a high degree of realism in the visualizations produced;
  3. Capable of running viewsheds and other spatial analyses related to visual impact assessment;
  4. Capable of incorporating atmospheric and weather condition variables that might affect visibility; and
  5. Suitable for use by personnel without extensive knowledge and experience with three-dimensional modeling and rendering tools.
VIESORE Photograph (left) and 3D Visualization (right) of Offshore Wind Turbines
Photograph (left) and 3D Visualization (right) of Offshore Wind Turbines

Visual Impact Evaluation System for Offshore Renewable Energy

With these needs in mind, the University of Arkansas Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies and Argonne National Laboratory's Environmental Science Division developed the Visual Impact Evaluation System for Offshore Renewable Energy (VIESORE). VIESORE is a geographic information system-based (GIS-based) software application that allows BOEM staff to import or interactively design the spatial layout and content of an offshore wind or ocean wave energy facility; import and prepare geospatial data and then run sophisticated GIS analyses to support visual impact assessments; specify atmospheric, lighting, and wave conditions; and then generate one or a series of spatially accurate visualizations from multiple viewpoints.

Project Status

VIESORE system design and development was completed in 2013, and the system is currently in use by BOEM staff. As part of the VIESORE design task, an assessment of offshore wind energy facility visibility and visual impact threshold distances was conducted in the United Kingdom in the summer of 2011. VIESORE development funding was provided by BOEM, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Please note: Information provided on this webpage does not signify that the contents necessarily reflect the view and policies of the BOEM.

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