Environmental Data Compendium
68 factsheets about the environment

Visual disturbance of landscape amenity by wind turbines, 2012

Man-made objects like overground power lines, infrastructure and large commercial buildings (including large animal housing units, greenhouses and business parks) and wind turbines are economically valuable, but generally have an adverse effect on the public's perception of the attractiveness of the landscape. Land-based wind turbines in the Netherlands are visible from about one-fifth of the country's surface area, and affect the public's appreciation of the landscape. The size of the area across which they are visible has increased in recent decades, but could not be adequately measured as the available data are insufficiently reliable.

Large differences in effects of visually intrusive elements

The degree to which these elements affect the appreciation largely depends on their visibility, which is determined by the height of the object, its proximity and the presence or absence of high vegetation and buildings that hide the object.
The actual effects of the visibility and proximity of a man-made object at a particular location depend on four other factors. The first is the original amenity value of the local landscape. The more attractive the original landscape was, and the more the object clashes with the identity of this landscape, the greater its disturbing effect on the landscape appreciation. This is also influenced by the visibility of other objects that adversely affect landscape appreciation: placing the first visible object has the greatest impact, while adding other intrusive elements hardly increases the effect. The amenity value may also be influenced by the relative positions of intrusive elements relative to each other, to other objects and to existing landscape elements, as well as the design of the elements in terms of colour and materials used. These aspects have, however, hardly been quantified in perception research. Finally, the degree to which people are personally involved in a man-made object is known to affect their appreciation: a farmer will not dislike the smell of the manure produced by his own cows.

Visibility tall structures and landscape appreciation

Other tall structures like overground power lines and tall buildings are also visible from large distances, but less is known about their effects on landscape appreciation. Infrastructure elements (like motorways and railroads) and large commercial buildings are only visible from distances of about 1.5 km at most under average visibility conditions. Where large commercial buildings are visible from a distance of about 500 m, the landscape appreciation is reduced by about a third compared to the same landscape without the building.
The effect of visible wind turbines on the public's appreciation has been well-documented. Where wind turbines with a height of 100 m are visible, the appreciation of the landscape within a radius of 1.5 km around the turbine is reduced by a third compared to the same landscape without the wind turbine. Although the effect decreases with the distance, the appreciation is still reduced by a quarter at a distance of 2.5 km. The precise nature of the effects at a particular location depends on other factors, which cannot be accurately documented on maps. For instance, the effect is assumed to be smaller in the less highly appreciated landscapes of the lower parts of the Netherlands (which are open and used for agriculture) and in landscapes that include many other man-made objects, like docklands and coastal industrial sites like the Maasvlakte. It is also influenced by the exact positioning of the objects with respect to existing landscape structures like large water bodies.

Many wind turbines visible in Flevoland, Groningen and Friesland, northern part of North-Holland and Zeeland

Under good visibility conditions, tall objects like wind turbines may be visible from distances up to 35 km, while under average visibility conditions, a 100 m wind turbine will be somewhat visible from 10 km. Although at this distance, they cover only a small part of the view, they draw attention to themselves by their shape, colour and movement, which make them stand out from the surroundings. Land-based wind turbines are somewhat visible to very clearly visible in over a fifth of the country. Many wind turbines can be seen in the province of Flevoland, the low-lying area of the provinces of Groningen and Friesland, the northern part of the province of North-Holland and the province of Zeeland. Not only have many turbines been constructed in these areas, but the areas are also characterised by a flat and open landscape.

Relevant objectives in the long-term vision for infrastructure and spatial planning (Structuurvisie Infrastructuur en Ruimte)

  • III Safeguarding a liveable and safe environment
  • IV Effective spatial planning system
  • National Concern no. 10: opportunities for preserving and reinforcing unique national and international historical and ecological values
  • National Concern no. 13: careful consideration and transparent decision-making processes in all decisions on spatial planning and infrastructure

Related policies

  • Long-term vision for land-based wind power (Structuurvisie Wind op land)
  • Energy Agreement (Energieakkoord)

Archive for this indicator

Reference for this page

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2014). Visual disturbance of landscape amenity by wind turbines, 2012 (indicator 1408, version 04 , 3 September 2014 ). www.environmentaldata.nl. Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.

The Environmental Data Compendium is a partnership of CBS, PBL, RIVM and WUR.