Skip navigation
Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse
Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse: Environmental resources for tribal energy development
Energy Resources Assessments & Monitoring Laws & Regulations
Energy Resources Assessments & Monitoring Laws & Regulations |  Home  |  News  |  FAQ  |  Glossary
Document Library
Federal and Tribal Contacts

Visual Resources Mitigation Measures

Mitigation measures to avoid or reduce visual impacts from solar 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 footprint (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 proposed solar 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 solar 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 collocate 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 solar field and associated facilities 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 nonsky 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.
    • Deploy and operate mirrors to avoid high-intensity light (glare) being reflected toward off-site ground receptors. Where off-site glare is unavoidable, install fencing with privacy slats or similar screening materials.
    • 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 solar energy project include:

  • Use dust suppression techniques to minimize impacts of vehicular traffic and wind on roads and exposed soils.
  • Depending on the situation, consider minimizing the amount of vehicular traffic and human activity.

Project Phase-Specific Mitigation Measures

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

Construction Practices

  • Minimize ground disturbance and control erosion by avoiding steep slopes and by minimizing 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 as closely as possible to their original contour and revegetate them immediately after or contemporaneously with disturbance activities whenever possible.

Operational Controls and Guidelines (generic SOPs, ongoing monitoring)

  • 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.
  • 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.