Asked, at short notice, to present a paper related to public perception of wind turbines, I decided to focus on ‘Perception, accuracy, honesty and transparency in the presentation of wind turbine visualisations’.
This drew on an awareness of poor-quality photomontage and associated graphics for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments (LVIAs) which accompany too many planning applications; together with my own quest to produce visualisations which comply with the best technical guidance and are, as far as possible, beyond criticism.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has taken the lead in the UK in providing guidance on wind energy visualisation, from large windfarms to individual turbines. Although the maths is a little complicated, the guidance is clearly set out. A small amount of research, combined with a robust methodology, allows photomontages to be produced which meet this guidance. In so doing, this provides maximum confidence in the visuals, on the part of the landscape architect writing the LVIA, the developer, the local authority (and consultees) and local residents. Poor quality, inaccurate or misleading visuals simply undermine the entire industry.
For example, the SNH (and LI) guidance recommends that turbine photomontages be viewed at 300-500mm (and ideally, 400-500mm) distance, that the viewing distance be stated on the photomontage, and that the image itself be “scaled” to match the stated viewing distance. As we need to scale a perspective view, this is where the complex maths comes in. Once understood, this is such a simple essential, that anybody presenting photomontage for planning applications should adhere to it, unless there are exceptionally good (and stated) reasons not to do so.
If you are a stakeholder in the development process, you should be demanding the quality of visual information which is possible - at reasonable cost - with contemporary technology and compliance with SNH and Landscape Institute guidance.