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Visual Resources Mitigation Measures

Mitigation measures to avoid or reduce visual impacts from biomass energy development.

The following are examples of mitigation measures that could be applied to reduce visual impacts of a project depending upon site- and project-specific conditions. Impacts to visual resources are related to the project activity (e.g., land disturbance), amount and types of equipment, machinery, and vehicles, standing structures, and project emissions (e.g., fugitive dust, air releases). Many impacts can be reduced or avoided when considered during the siting and design phase.

Develop a final set of mitigation measures for any project in consultation with the appropriate federal resource management agencies and stakeholders. Conduct these consultations early in the project development process and preferably prior to final project siting and design.

Siting and Design Mitigation Measures

Siting and design considerations that mitigate impacts include:

  • Involve the public in decision making regarding visual site design elements for a proposed biomass energy project. Possible approaches include conducting public forums; offering tours; using computer simulation and visualization techniques in public presentations; and conducting surveys regarding public perceptions and attitudes about biomass energy projects.
  • Integrate the site design with the surrounding landscape.
    • To the extent practicable, avoid placing large operations buildings on high land features and along "skylines" that are visible from nearby sensitive viewpoints. Conceal these developments or make them less conspicuous. Design and construct conspicuous components of the project to harmonize with desirable or acceptable characteristics of the surrounding environment.
    • Do not site projects and their elements next to prominent land features.
    • Minimize the number of structures and co-locate facility components to the extent possible.
    • Bury electrical lines and pipelines on the site in a manner that minimizes additional surface disturbance.
    • Take advantage of both topography and vegetation as screening devices to restrict views of projects from visually sensitive areas.
  • Integrate the facility's design with the surrounding landscape. Incorporate the following design elements to achieve this integration:
    • If the project will be viewed against an earthen or other non-sky background, select appropriately colored materials for structures, or apply appropriate stains/coatings to blend with the project's backdrop.
    • Employ materials and surface treatments to repeat and/or blend with the existing form, line, color, and texture of the landscape.
    • Use materials, coatings, or paints having little or no reflectivity whenever possible.
    • Lighting for facilities should not exceed the minimum required for safety and security. Select designs that minimize upward light scattering (light pollution). Direct and shield lighting from off-site view to the extent possible. Where feasible, use timers and sensors to minimize the amount of time that lights are on.
  • Consider aesthetic offsets as a mitigative option in situations where visual impacts are unavoidable, or where alternative mitigation options are only partially effective or uneconomical.

General Mitigation Measures

General mitigation practices and principles that could apply to any or all phases of a biomass energy project include:

  • Use dust suppression techniques to minimize impacts of vehicular traffic and wind on roads and exposed soils.

Project Phase-Specific Mitigation Measures

Mitigation measures specific to a particular phase of a biomass energy project include:

Biomass Production

  • Implement no-till agriculture and/or displace annual crops with perennial biomass crops to reduce fugitive dust levels resulting from tilling the soil annually.


  • Minimize ground disturbance and control erosion by avoiding steep slopes.
  • Minimize the amount of surface disturbance needed for infrastructure (e.g., roads, electrical lines).
  • Keep equipment and vehicles within the limits of the initially disturbed areas.
  • Restore disturbed surfaces to their original contour to the extent possible and revegetate them immediately after or contemporaneously with disturbance activities whenever possible.


  • Maintain the site during operation of the facility. Inoperative or damaged equipment and poor housekeeping, in general, creates a poor image of the activity in the eyes of the public.

Decommissioning/Site Reclamation

  • Develop and implement a decommissioning plan that includes the removal of all aboveground facilities and full reclamation of the site.
  • Remove intake and discharge structures from surface water bodies.
  • Return access roads and the project site to as near natural contours as feasible.
  • Revegetate all disturbed areas with plant species appropriate to the site.