Illustrating the Aesthetic Impacts of Offshore Wind Turbines in Lake Erie

Issue

In recent years, the Great Lakes community has intensified efforts to investigate and develop alternative energy solutions in coastal regions. In Ohio, many residents are hotly debating whether wind energy facilities should be located off the Lake Erie shore, where winds are strong and steady enough to generate energy. Advocates note that the industry would boost the local economy, but some area residents are concerned that the turbines would impact shoreline vistas.

Process

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Coastal Management (OCM) is at the forefront of the state’s offshore wind siting and leasing issues. OCM staff members decided to create CanVis visualizations using Lake Erie photos taken from various vantage points along the Cleveland lakefront. CanVis enables users with minimal computer skills to create realistic simulations of coastal changes. With this tool, OCM personnel were able to accurately scale the wind turbine graphic to illustrate turbines at distances between one and fifteen miles from shore. They also depicted what a wind “farm” might look like by spacing multiple projected turbine images onto the photograph.

Impact

Personnel from OCM have shown the CanVis offshore wind turbine visualizations to local developers, decision makers, and other individuals and organizations with a stake in the issue. The CanVis visualizations have been well-received by stakeholders interested in analyzing the likely aesthetic impacts of wind turbines placed at various distances from shore. As wind turbine placement and feasibility studies progress in Ohio, CanVis will continue to help stakeholders evaluate the aesthetic impacts of wind turbines as they also consider likely impacts of offshore wind on the area’s economy, ecology, and quality of life.

The first tab shows an unretouched photo taken from the Lake Erie shore. The CanVis visualization shows the approximate visual impact of wind turbines placed one to three miles offshore.