Cost-efficiency and public acceptance are competing objectives for onshore wind locations. The impact of ‘scenicness’ on these two objectives has been difficult to quantify for wind projects. We analyse the link between economic wind resources and beautiful landscapes with over 1.5 million ‘scenicness’ ratings of around 200,000 geotagged photographs from across Great Britain. We find evidence that planning applications for onshore wind are more likely to be rejected when proposed in more scenic areas. Compared to the technical potential of onshore wind of 1,700 TWh at a total cost of £280 billion, removing the 10% most scenic areas implies about 18% lower generation potential and 8–26% higher costs. We also consider connection distances to the nearest electricity network transformer, showing that the connection costs constitute up to half of the total costs. The results provide a quantitative framework for researchers and policymakers to consider the trade-offs between cost-efficiency and public acceptance for onshore wind.
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We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of D. Schlund, who carried out some of the wind analysis whilst a Student Assistant at KIT, as well as C. Moutard, on whose Master’s Thesis at DTU this article builds (Assessing the ‘acceptable’ onshore wind potential in the UK, 2019, https://findit.dtu.dk/en/catalog/2451029061). M. D’Andrea, K. Paidis and T. Jaenicke supported the preparation of early versions of the manuscript whilst Student Assistants at DTU. I.M. gratefully acknowledges financial support from Kraks Fond, Copenhagen (firstname.lastname@example.org). T.P. and H.S.M. are grateful for support from The Alan Turing Institute under the EPSRC grant EP/N510129/1 (including awards TU/B/000006 and TU/B/000008).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Energy thanks James Palmer and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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McKenna, R., Weinand, J.M., Mulalic, I. et al. Scenicness assessment of onshore wind sites with geotagged photographs and impacts on approval and cost-efficiency. Nat Energy 6, 663–672 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00842-5