A GIS-Multicriteria Approach to Analyzing Noise and Visual Impacts of Wind Farms

by Bihui Fang

Institution: University of Waterloo
Degree: Master of Environmental Studies
Year: 2015
Keywords: Wind farm site selection, Southern Ontario, GIS, MCDA, Turbine noise and visibility, Spatial conflicts in facility siting
Record ID: 2061362
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10012/9185


Land-use conflicts in facility siting can trigger public opposition in communities. A negative public perception, such as the Not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) attitude, is a planning issue that is strongly associated with some types of siting decisions. After the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program through the Green Energy Act was introduced in Ontario in 2009, a large number of wind farm developments were proposed and implemented. Public concerns regarding the noise and aesthetic impacts of wind turbines have created public resistance and caused project delays. More importantly, the wind farm siting decision making process is a top-down process, which overrides the power of municipalities and ignores public concerns towards wind farms. In this thesis, a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) siting approach has been developed, which is capable of representing the potential noise and visual impacts caused by wind turbines in a wind farm siting process. After identifying a sample of feasible sites in Southern Ontario, the noise and visual impact assessment approaches were applied to estimate the affected-population by wind farm sites. The changes of suitability levels within each feasible site can be determined after the integration of noise and visual criteria with the common siting criteria, which include physical, environmental, planning and economic factors. This siting approach is generalizable, which means it can be applied to other facility developments that have potential noise and visual impacts to the public. The results illustrate the spatial changes of suitability level before and after introducing the noise and visual criteria into the siting process. Planners and decision makers could potentially apply this siting approach to address public concerns in the future wind farm siting decisions.