Landscape and Visual Impact
The Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment looks at the potential visual and landscape impacts on publicly accessible locations within the study area and private residential dwellings within 6 kilometres of a wind turbine.
The study area is based on the distance over which the proposed wind turbines have the potential to be readily perceptible in views – which is 28.6 kilometres. It may be possible to see the wind turbines from further away, however at a greater distance they would not be conspicuous.
To establish the potential visual impacts on the existing landscape the following steps were completed:
- Identify which components of the project that have the potential to contribute to visual impact and define the Project’s viewshed;
- Establish Zones of Visual Influence, a measure to assess the potential visual dominance of the Project on a landscape;
- Assign landscape quality and sensitivity based on existing physical characteristics, land use, and relevant planning controls/policies to understand a particular landscape’s sensitivity to visual change;
- Use Seen Area Analysis (SAA) to determine areas of theoretical visibility based on topography (the SAA does not consider other things that may affect visibility including intervening vegetation, built form and structures);
- Prepare photomontages, computer modelling, virtual reality and augmented reality imagery at key public and private locations to assist with visualisation; and
- Assess effectiveness of potential mitigation measures such as re-siting of turbines and vegetation screening.
Legislation and Policy
The relevant legislation and government policies that were considered in the preparation of the landscape and visual impact assessment are:
- Policy and Planning Guidelines for Wind Energy Facilities in Victoria (March 2019); and
- Latrobe, Baw Baw and South Gippsland Planning Schemes, in particular planning controls/policies relating to views, landscape sensitivity and visual impact.
The study area includes parts of the Strzelecki Ranges, comprising rolling hills that range in elevation from 25 metres to 740 metres. Vegetation within the viewshed is varied and includes pine plantation immediately surrounding the site, natural forested areas, roadside vegetation, windbreak/buffer planting within farm areas and garden planting around residences.
Areas of visual / landscape sensitivity within the study area / viewshed includes:
- Land within the Public Conservation and Resource Zone (PCRZ), General Residential Zone (GRZ), Rural Living Zone (RLZ), and open space areas within the Public Park and Recreation Zone (PPRZ).
- The Bull Beef Creek Nature Conservation Reserve, Moondarra State Park and Tyers Park; and
- Residential properties, including within townships and rural living.
It is noted that the majority of land within the viewshed is zoned Farming Zone (FZ) and Special Use Zone – Schedule 1 (SUZ1) which are not considered to be sensitive areas.
Landscape Types and Sensitivities
There are six different landscape unit types in the area surrounding the proposed Delburn Wind Farm which have been assessed based on land use, topography and vegetation. The landscape sensitivity of these units is established by taking into consideration the ability of a landscape to absorb visual change based on its current character, its location, the rarity of a particular landscape and the scenic qualities of a particular landscape.
The six identified landscape units and their associated sensitivity rating are described below.
- Townships: Moderate Sensitivity – Built form and other visual elements reduce the visual sensitivity of these areas. However, as these are urban areas with many houses, the landscape sensitivity is rated medium.
- Rural Residential: Moderate-High Sensitivity – While these areas are valued for their ‘natural-appearing’ or rural landscape amenity, they have modified landscapes within zones that are set aside for rural related industries such as farming or extractive resources, and thus inherently contain land uses with potential off-site amenity impacts.
- Cleared Flat Farmland: Low Sensitivity – Highly modified, contains visible infrastructure, is not topographically dramatic and does not contain large bodies of water.
- Cleared Hilly Farmland: Low to Moderate Sensitivity – Highly modified, by way of clearing of native vegetation. The intersection of rolling hills deeply incised valleys provides for a diversity of framing of views that are either closed and confined or reveal longer views across the valley floor and to the elevated hills in the distance.
- Industrial/Mining: Low Sensitivity – Highly modified landscape.
- Forested Hills (Natural): Moderate to High Sensitivity – This landscape is attractive as it contains areas that appear pristine.
- Forested Hills (plantation): Low to Moderate Sensitivity – This landscape is attractive when vegetated. This landscape is European in appearance and regularly modified through timber harvesting.
- Lakes and Waterways: High Sensitivity.
- National and State Parks: High Sensitivity – This landscape is attractive as it contains areas that are and appear pristine. Encroaching development into this landscape type has increased the rarity of this landscape.
Landscape units and sensitivity ratings form the basis of the visual impact of views from publicly accessible locations.
Landscape sensitivity from individual residential properties will always be assessed as ‘high’ as for a resident, a person’s home will always be a highly sensitive location and disturbances to a resident’s views must always be considered to have the highest degree of sensitivity.
Seen Area Analysis
The Seen Area Analysis (SAA) is a theoretical model that analyses the visibility of the wind turbines and associated infrastructure using just the topography of the surrounding landscape. This generally overstates the area where turbines will be visible as it does not take into account things such as vegetation, buildings or structures that can screen or filter views. The results of the SAA shows the areas where the blade swept path, nacelle and above may be visible.
The SAA shows that the greatest potential for visibility of the wind turbines are to the north-east and east. Land located within these areas is predominantly zoned SUZ1 and includes large open cut coal mines that are either operating or in the process of being decommissioned. The SAA highlights the dynamic and undulating nature of the topography to the west and south of the Project site which assists in limiting views. The SAA of the two alternative terminal station sites indicates theoretical visibility from residences to the east and south of the site.
The SAA is used to select key viewpoints for further detailed analysis.
Publicly Accessible Viewpoints
The consideration of the visual impact of a wind farm development from the public domain is based on four criteria; visibility, distance, landscape character and viewer numbers.
The assessment of overall visual impact from a publicly accessible viewpoint is based on the following scale of effects:
- Nil – The project will be screened by topography, vegetation or buildings and structures.
- Negligible – minute level of effect that is barely discernible over ordinary day-to-day effects. The assessment of a ‘negligible’ level of visual impact is usually based on distance. That is, the wind farm is at such a distance that, when visible in good weather, it would be a minute element in the view within a modified landscape or will be predominantly screened by intervening topography, vegetation or buildings and structures.
- Low – Visual impacts are those where the Project is noticeable but that will not cause significant adverse impacts. The assessment of a “low” level of visual impact will be arrived at if the rating of any one or more of the four criteria (visibility, distance, viewer numbers and landscape sensitivity) are assessed as low. Therefore, an additional piece of infrastructure in a landscape which is modified, and which already contains many examples of existing infrastructure may be rated as a low level of visual impact.
- Medium / Moderate – visual impact may occur when several of the four assessment criteria are considered as higher than “low” or the visual effects can be mitigated/remedied from an initial rating of High. This will be moderated by the context of the existing view and the modifications within the landscape.
- High or unacceptable adverse effect – extensive adverse effects that cannot be avoided, remedied or mitigated. The assessment of a “high or unacceptable adverse effect” from a publicly accessible viewpoint requires the assessment of all criteria to be high. For example, a highly sensitive landscape, viewed by many people, with the proposed wind farm in close proximity and largely visible would lead to an assessment of an unacceptable adverse effect.
Seen Area Analysis of WEF (Nacelle and Above)
Visual and landscape impacts of the WEF on public areas have been broken down to impacts on:
- Highways and tourist routes;
- Major roads;
- Local roads;
- Recreational trails, parks and elevated lookouts.
Views from Highways, Tourist Routes, Major Roads and Local Roads
Fifty viewpoints along Highways, Tourist Routes, Major Roads and Local Roads including Strzelecki Highway, Grand Ridge Road, Hazelwood Road and Monash Way to the east, and the Morwell-Thorpdale Road which runs through part of the northern end of the site have been assessed and concluded that the visual impact from these locations ranges from low to moderate. The majority of views towards the Project are limited by roadside vegetation, plantation areas and adjoining farming properties as well as screening created by nearby and surrounding properties.
Views and visibility of the proposed turbines from local roads vary greatly, depending on location and proximity to the Project. The local road network sits within a varying landscape ranging from views over cleared flat farmland where long views are available across the valley floor and plain, through to confined views from the folding landscape of vegetated undulating hills.
- Viewpoint H1 (Strzelecki Highway – Morwell River Bridge)
- Viewpoint H5 (Strzelecki Highway)
- Viewpoint L7 (Creamery Road)
- Viewpoint L10 (Bunderra Drive)
- Viewpoint L14 (Todd Road)
- Viewpoint L15 (Darlimurla Road)
- Viewpoint L21 (McDonalds Track)
- Viewpoint L22 (Sayers Track)
- Viewpoint M3 (Monash Way)
- Viewpoint M6 (Monash Way)
- Viewpoint T6 (Yinnar Township)
- Viewpoint T9 (Thorpdale Township)
Views from Townships
There are twelve townships within the viewshed from which the visual impact has been assessed and it has been concluded that the overall visual impact on townships will be low-negligible.
Views from most locations within the nearby townships will be filtered or screened by a combination of topography, vegetation or buildings and other structures and views are typically limited to the edges of townships or areas such as recreation reserves that allow for clear views over large open areas. Where they are visible, the turbines would not be dominant features due to the scale and extent of vegetation in most views towards the Project. The result of the visual impact assessment from each town surrounding the project is set out below.
|Township||Nearest Turbine||Visual Impact|
|Yallourn||13km SW (T03)||Negligible-Nil|
|Tyers||21km SW (T01)||Negligible|
|Traralgon||23km SW (T01)||Negligible|
|Churchill||11.6km W (T16)||Negligible|
|Morwell||10.2km SW (T01)||Negligible|
|Yinnar||4.0km W (T14)||Low|
|Boolarra||3.8km NW (T29)||Low-Negligible|
|Mirboo North||7.3km NE (T33)||Low-Negligible|
|Thorpdale||6.0km E (T24)||Negligible-Nil|
|Narracan||2.8km E (T05)||Negligible-Nil|
|Coalville||2.2km SE (T04)||Negligible-Nil|
|Moe||8.8km S (T03)||Low-Negligible|
Virtual reality (VR) footage from the Yinnar Township can be viewed here (PASSWORD: OSMI-IGNITION) showing the visibility of the turbines in the background. The views in the VR demonstrates the effectiveness of small trees and low shrubs at screening turbines which are approximately 4 kilometres away on elevated hills.
Recreational Trails, Parks and Elevated Lookouts
Eleven viewpoints within surrounding recreational trails, parks, and elevated lookouts have been assessed and it has been concluded that the visual impact on parks and recreational trails would be negligible. Outside of towns and built-up areas, walking trails tend to be in heavily vegetated areas such as the Lyrebird Forest Walk, Morwell National Park and the trail to Petersons lookout.
Impacts on Residential Properties
Views from residential dwellings have the greatest potential for visual impacts, and for residential occupiers the view to the wind turbines may not be just a glimpse or a 5-minute experience as they drive around the local road network, but potentially a permanent view from living areas or outside entertainment spaces of their homes.
Landholders that farm the land may also be impacted as they work on their property, however, these areas are not considered as sensitive as views from places of residence or attached private open space.
There are a total of 1567 dwellings within 6 kilometres of a proposed turbine and the SAA indicates the extent of theoretical visibility of the turbines from those dwellings. Across these dwellings, actual visibility and visual impact varies greatly.
There is greater theoretical visibility for areas east in the clear flat plain of Hazelwood and Yinnar. For those areas to the north of the project, visibility is largely defined by topography and a large number of dwellings will have little to no visibility at all.
The greatest potential for visual impacts is from individual residential dwellings located in close proximity to the Project but the range and nature of residential views will be dependent on the proximity and orientation of the dwelling towards the Project.
The visual impact from 20 residential dwellings ranging from 1.2-4.4 km from the nearest turbine have been included in the impact assessment and the impact ranges from Negligible to High with varying degrees of landscape mitigation considered to be possible, demonstrating the diversity of potential impacts in the context of this highly variable landscape.
If you would like to have a visual impact assessment completed at your home, please contact the project team.
Visual Impact of the Terminal Station
The tallest component of the terminal station is the twin strain poles with an overall height of 45m, similar to the existing 220kV lattice supports.
Views to the terminal station locations will be screened by undulating topography and filtered by surrounding vegetation. Given the distance between this terminal station infrastructure and the closest residences is approximately 3km the terminal station will not be a dominating element in the view.
Perimeter screening may be provided if necessary, however it is likely that views would be effectively screened by the surrounding plantation.
Landscaping is one option available to mitigate views from residential properties in proximity to the proposed Wind Farm. In contrast to views from roads and working areas on farms and larger properties, views from dwellings and their immediate areas of private open space is relatively fixed, allowing planting to be carefully designed to screen or reduce the visual dominance of wind turbines through filtering of views.
However, not all landowners wish to screen views of turbines either through a preference to see the turbines, the potential to remove other views, or other aesthetic reasons. Therefore, landscape mitigation measures must be determined on a case-by-case basis in consultation with landholders to achieve optimal outcomes.
All wind farm projects within Victoria have a requirement to provide landscape mitigation for residential dwellings within an area where a high level of visual impacts is predicted. For recent projects, this distance has been set at 5 kilometres from an approved turbine (based upon the overall height of the proposed turbines). This requirement is typically incorporated as a permit condition setting out that the permit holder must implement measures to reduce the visual impact of turbines from the primary dwelling and attached outdoor areas of private open space.
An example of vegetation planting to assist with screening views to turbines is shown below. Alternatives include considered placement of single trees or clusters of trees to screen views to the nearest and/or most visually noticeable turbine.
Figure 2: Potential Landscape Mitigation Measures
For dwellings located within a Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) it will also be important to consider design requirements such as canopy separation, defendable space and distance from the dwelling. For these reasons, vegetation has been shown at varying distances from the dwelling assuming flat terrain.
Vertical view angles, taking into consideration the overall height of the turbines and the distance of the dwelling to the turbine, need to be considered when determining the height of the vegetation required to screen views. By analysing view angles for a height of 250m, it is possible to determine the approximate height that landscape mitigation would need to be to achieve to screen visual impacts at different distances from a residential dwellings.
An example of vegetation heights required based on the turbine being 1 kilometre away – the closest set back permissible under Victorian planning requirements – is shown below. Topography and elevation will also influence the landscaping requirements.
Figure 3: An example of vegetation heights required based on the turbine being 1 kilometre away – the closest set back permissible under Victorian planning requirements.
The Landscape and visual analysis has shown that the project is in an area that can accommodate the visual change of the Proposed Delburn Wind Farm and associated infrastructure and will not be detrimental to the views, character and amenity of the area within the viewshed of the Project.
The Project is proposed to be located entirely within an area that is used for managing timber and forestry plantations and will connect directly into an existing high voltage transmission line. The land to the north east of the site is occupied or in transition from open-cut coalmines and coalfired power stations with supporting infrastructure and transmission lines. The remaining land in this area, part of which is used for farming and agriculture is retained with a special use zone applied to areas reserved for future exploration and mining. The majority of the area to the east is used for farming, which is not a sensitive use. Views from these areas towards the project are influenced by existing vegetation within the surrounding road network, farming and conservation areas. Closer to the site and in the areas to the south and east comprises a folded and complex landscape where views change dramatically from clear long views to completely screened.
The greatest potential for visual impacts would be from individual dwellings located in close proximity to the Project. The majority of these dwellings are located in and around the same hills on which the turbines are located. The assessment has shown that views from these areas are diverse and visual impact changes dramatically over a short distance. There will be views from some dwellings that will have a high visual impact where neighbouring dwellings who are at a similar distance to the proposed turbines will have no visibility at all. This is due to the topography of the landscape in which the dwellings are located, the orientation and proximity to vegetation both within the private realm, roadsides, plantations and forestry areas.