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Visual Impact Best Management Practices Guide for Renewable Energy Facilities

Argonne and the BLM have prepared a guide to best management practices for mitigating visual impacts of utility-scale renewable energy facilities.

Cover of Best Management Practices for Reducing Visual Impacts Associated with Renewable Energy Facilities on BLM-Administered Lands
Visual Impact Best Management Practices Guide (PDF, 25MB)

Wind, solar, and geothermal energy facilities may present opportunities to “harvest” readily available and renewable energy sources and therefore reduce our country’s reliance on fossil fuels. Nevertheless, these facilities may also cause large visual impacts in the open landscapes of the western United States. and thus present special challenges for mitigating their visual impacts. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is increasingly concerned with avoiding and/or reducing the visual impacts associated with these facilities when sited on the public lands it administers.

Visual Impact Mitigation Challenges

BLM is receiving an increasing number of proposals to develop utility-scale renewable energy facilities on the lands it administers. In order to meet BLM’s visual resource management objectives for these lands, and as part of its review of these proposals, BLM must specify visual impact mitigation measures to reduce impacts associated with these facilities.

Although there are numerous partial (and publicly available) lists of measures to mitigate visual impacts, there is no convenient, comprehensive set of measures that target the distinct visual characteristics of these relatively new types of facilities. Furthermore, the mitigation sources that are currently available contain only brief and sometimes vague entries and lack details and practical suggestions for application in real-world settings. These sources also fail to state important limitations that officials should consider.

Guidance for Renewable Energy Facility Visual Impact Mitigation

Working with BLM’s visual resource staff, Argonne National Laboratory’s Environmental Science Division has developed Best Management Practices for Reducing Visual Impacts Associated with Renewable Energy Facilities on BLM-Administered Lands. Intended for application in the western United States, the best management practices guide provides BLM staff and other stakeholders with a convenient and comprehensive “one-stop” source of detailed and vetted best management practices for reducing visual impacts of wind, solar, and geothermal facilities, including mitigation for ancillary facilities and project components, such as roads, buildings, lighting, and electric transmission. The heavily illustrated guide includes practical advice for implementing the best management practices along with important limitations that must be considered during implementation, and also contains a detailed analysis of the visual characteristics and impacts associated with the construction, operation, and decommissioning of wind, solar, and geothermal facilities.

Development of the best management practices guide was funded by BLM’s Wyoming State Office. The guide is publicly available at http://blmwyomingvisual.anl.gov/docs/BLM_RenewableEnergyVisualBMPs_LowRes.pdf (PDF, 25MB).

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