Monthly Archives: July 2015

Solar is Coming!

Over the past few weeks and months, we have had increasing number of enquiries about how VentusAR could be used to visualise a solar farm instead of a wind farm.device-2015-07-27-120210

Well the good news is that VentusAR 4.0 will now support ground mounted solar arrays as well as wind turbines and transmission towers.

VentusAR 4.0 is the latest upcoming release – due early August 2015.

Solar Panels

As part of the testing of farm-scale solar functionality, we put 400 panels in a field just north of Glasgow and loaded everything onto the iPad. It probably took about 30 minutes to set the up the project and most of that was spent working out the position of each mounting (we’ll work on optimising this for developers who don’t have desktop GIS to design and plan).

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We then headed out onsite to take some photography. Two viewpoints were chosen – fairly close together, and we simply pointed the tablet towards the field. The solar panels showed up in their correct location and imagery was captured. Some masking and we have four high resolution photomontages of what this solar farm would look like. Total amount of work: less than 1 hour from start to finish.

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This functionality will be available in VentusAR 4.0 – due to be released early August. If this is something you would like to discuss further, or would like to set up a demonstration, please contact us at hello@linknode.co.uk or call us on 0141 559 6170

Cumulative Data Refresh: July 2015

We are pleased to announce the latest refresh of our national turbine dataset (for cumulative assessment) which is available from VentusAR (both for app-users and for data-only access). The dataset contains information on the size and location of wind turbines as they pass through the UK planning application systems.

Headline numbers for the July 2015 refresh across the UK are 16,362 projects containing 31,468 turbines. This is approximately 5% more turbines than imported in the May 2015 dataset.

Local Authority Spotlight

Our dataset now contains projects found in 360 UK wide local authorities. In Scotland alone, there are now 4,699 projects containing 13,963 turbines (that is over 8.5% up on the May 2015 release).

The top ten LA’s with the most turbines within the planning system are as follows:

 

In terms of the “best” or “worst” areas for consented turbines, The Shetland Isles and Renfrewshire are both at one end of the scale having over 80% of all turbines (not individual applications) granted. Angelsey on the other hand has under 20% of all turbines permitted.

Notes to Readers, Users and Editors

The VentusAR July 2015 refresh contains data sourced in the two months up to 1st July 2015 and loaded on 9th July 2015. It contains publicly accessible information about the project and the turbine locations, including turbine type and dimensions.

The dataset can be used as a quick, easy and convenient way to obtain cumulative turbine locations, required as part of the onshore wind development process. More information can be found about the VentusAR national cumulative dataset on the VentusAR website.

This dataset is available to all, whether you are a  VentusAR app customer or not. Non-VentusAR customers can access the data via a secure website by registering as a “portal-only” user.  Please contact us for further information.

If you have other suggestions of interesting statistics (most used turbine model at different sizes) or want to have a custom analysis and report created for a specific area, please email hello@ventusar.com.

Wind Farm Impacts Study Published

Yesterday (2 July 2015) the ClimateXChange group published the results from a 2-year study into wind farm planning documentation. Specifically the report was designed to determine whether the “visual [and other] impacts predicted by wind farm developers in documentation submitted with their planning applications are consistent with the impacts experienced once the wind farm is operational.

The main report is a fairly weighty 190+ pages and available for download from ClimateXChange. Uniquely, the report has a steering group of government, professional and campaigner interests.
ClimateXChange

As the report focussed on the visual impact and interpretation of planning documentation, it is of particular interest to Linknode and the development of VentusAR and LVIA communication and engagement tool for planners, developers and communities alike.

The summary below is a very high level assessment of the visual components of the document.

We welcome this research as it clarifies the existing process and reassures the public that professional assessment is of a high quality. But also that process and proportionality are important. At Linknode we create technology to make visualisation and process more efficient and VentusAR now allows you to not only engage interactively, but to do so by following existing guidance. We are happy to discuss impact and implementations with any interested parties.

Study Area
Ten sites were used for case studies. These were filtered from a long-list and varied from large developments to significant single-turbine sites across Scotland. All applications had progressed through the planning process to construction and hence provided an ideal set of as-planned to as-built comparisons.

Methodology
The ClimateXChange consultants reviewed all the internal (planning authority) and external (developer and consultees, including SNH) planning-stage documents for each application. Eight out of ten contained an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which included a LVIA. Two smaller projects has no formal EIA, but did include landscape reports. Where four went to public inquiry, the reporters findings were also included.

Viewpoints were determined as appropriate for comparative assessment of documentation and for each study area visited twice (summer and winter) by a chartered landscape professional. When assessing viewpoints, the micro-siting (and lack of as-built consent documentation) made some comparisons difficult.

Additionally, a residential survey was carried out to a sample of households within 4km of sites. Six questions elicited answers on preference and for some of those site visits were carried out to assess significance. It was not clear from the document if questionnaire responses were self-selecting (which tends to promote a strong bias away from the normal).

Observations
Although disparate planning processes led to inconsistent documentation wrt visuals, GLVIA was generally applied with insignificant variations (fit for purpose).

It was not possible to ensure (through documentation review) that viewpoint coverage was representative and proportionate. In addition, it was not clear if the decision makers had actually visited viewpoints, or relied on printed materials (with some indication that reports were unread and only printed visuals consulted).

For the 25% of viewpoint assessments where the ClimateXChange professionals opinion differed from the original reporters, this was not put down to micro-siting alterations.

More detailed assessments of impacts on individual private views are not always required by the authorities and there is no standard methodology for carrying out such assessments.

Residential surveys show low correlation between residential impact and residents opinion on development. No before-and-after assessment was available.

Key Findings
The latest GLVIA (3, 2015) and SNH (2.1, 2015) guidance should be followed at all times.

A robust methodology for residential visual amenity and consistent implementation is required as consistent guidance.

Planning authorities should develop and agree pre-application and post-submission check lists for visual assessment.

Public consultation does not convey enough relevant information to attendees, and should include advice on micro-siting flexibility.

Pre-application, planning authorities should request a proportional number of viewpoints. And in addition make it clear at Scoping Opinion as to if/how residential visual amenity should be carried out.

At assessment and reporting, officials and reports should reference viewpoints visited and specific cases where their interpretation differs from the ES.

Micro-siting should be in line with documented constraints and aims in order that overall landscape objectives are retained in revisions. Final as-built location should be recorded as a matter of course (and monitored for accuracy by planning authorities).

Consultants Summary (Steering Group Statement)
The consultants suggested further improvements that could be made:
1. Guidance and methodology should be developed for residential visual impact surveys and
also, where appropriate, the overall impact on residential amenity due to the combined
visual, shadow flicker and noise effects of wind energy developments.
2. Checklists are needed for planners at scoping and post submission stages of an LVIA
(Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments) to ensure consistency and consideration of key
matters.
3. Consistent and clear reporting on the landscape and visual design objectives for a wind farm
should be set out in assessments.

Linknode Summary
The ClimateXChange report is a valuable tool in proving current, and guiding future planning governance.
The ability of new visualisation tools, in the office and field to provide low-cost, high accuracy proportional assessments of visuals means that developers, planners and communities should all get the opportunity to better understand applications and engage democratically with the planning process. Residential Visual Amenity Surveys should be an integral and essential part of the LVIA mix and VentusAR helps enable this rapidly and efficiently.