A GIS-Based Decision Support System for the Optimal Siting of Wind Farm Projects: Does Social Acceptance Really Matter?

  FCN E.ON ERC RWTH Aachen Visualization of the siting optimization procedure and the study area

The locational choice (optimal siting) is crucial for the success of wind farm projects, in part due to the associated significant visual impact on the landscape. The siting of wind farms also involves, besides the consideration of technical requirements, economic benefits and spatial aspects, the valuation of negative externalities incurred (e.g. noise intrusion, devaluation of neighborhood property). Decreasing social acceptance has become a major and increasingly recognized issue with regard to the successful realization of wind power projects.

The aim of this joint research project of FCN and PGS is to optimize siting processes in Germany by means of a GISbased Decision Support System (DSS) with a special focus on social acceptance issues. Within the project a comprehensive optimization model that accounts for technical, regulatory, economic and land-use parameters as well as aspects related to social acceptance will be developed and applied. The implementation of a model component that considers aspects related to social acceptance enhances the siting process in case of wind farms. In order to add acceptance parameters for a quantitative analysis, results from Hedonic Pricing analyses that enable the economic estimation of the visual impact of wind farms will be incorporated. The inclusion of viewshed analyses in the first steps of the siting evaluation is an enhancement of current technical efficiency-based siting models. Particularly against the background of repowering projects which result in a substantial upscaling of the turbines, the consideration and investigation of visual impacts are crucial for the success of wind farm projects. Moreover, underpinning the DSS with GIS techniques and data incorporates a spatial reference and allows for geo-spatial and rational decision support.

The generic model applied to the case of onshore wind power projects is a versatile and innovative planning tool both for communities in Germany to improve land-use planning as well as for energy providers to find optimal locations for their projects and to avoid unanticipated or underestimated project costs due to public resistance. In a pilot application, the DSS tool will be applied to the district of Aachen.