Photo trickery makes wind farms smaller

James Gillespie Published: 15 July 2012 Sunday Times

WIND FARM developers have been accused of deceiving local councils and the public by using computer-generated images in planning applications that make the turbines seem smaller than they are in reality.
The claim is contained in a new book, Windfarm Visualisation: Perspective or Perception, by the architect Alan Macdonald, whose company, Architech, specialises in computer- generated images.
A separate study by the University of Stirling found serious flaws in the images that are presented as part of a visual impact assessment in the planning process.
Macdonald said the accepted practice was for a photograph of the landscape where the turbines are to be sited to be taken on a camera with a 50mm lens. This is then “stitched together” with other 50mm shots to create a long, shallow panorama on an A3 page.
But the human eye does not take in the whole panorama; it focuses on the middle section where the computer-generated images of turbines have been placed, giving the impression of a small development on a large landscape.
“A printed 50mm photographic image will always under-represent our perception of the scale of a more distant object because we are looking at a flat image devoid of any depth information,” Macdonald said. Indeed several studies suggest that a 70mm lens would in fact be more appropriate
The only way someone can get a realistic impression of what the turbines would really look like is to place the image on a curved display, with one eye closed.
The University of Stirling report also found the use of the industry-standard 50mm lens to be misleading.
However, RenewableUK, the wind energy industry body, said: “It is in developers’ interests to ensure that their visualisations are accurate.”

2 comments to Photo trickery makes wind farms smaller

  • This has been known since 1998 when a local photographer who did work throughout the UK explained how such ‘tricks’ would emasculate the landscape and make the turbines appear smaller that they are. Sadly he was struck by a rare form of cancer and died but did come to the High Court to support me in the Barningham fight.It is heartening to see such expertise emerging and congratulations to the author.

  • R Simmance

    It is NOT “in the developers’ interests to ensure that their visualisations are accurate”. It is in their interests to do whatever it takes to get their planning applications passed. If that means dismissing the impact on a community (or bending the truth), then so be it.

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