California Visual Simulation

Visual Simulations for the California Offshore Wind Energy Call Areas


In response to stakeholder interest regarding visual impacts from potential future renewable energy development within the California Offshore Wind Energy Call Areas, simulations were prepared for the three Call Areas of Humboldt, Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon.

Three key observation points (KOPs) were chosen to provide representative viewpoints for each of the Call Areas. All KOPs are located in coastal areas accessible by the public. Panoramic simulations were prepared for morning, mid-day, afternoon, and nighttime. A meteorological report detailing the weather and visibility conditions over a 10-year period was also prepared as part of this effort.

As explained below, the visual simulations are not representative of an actual offshore wind energy facility but provides instead a representative project and how it might appear for each Call Area.

How will actual offshore wind facilities differ from these visual simulations?

The visual simulations illustrate hypothetical projects. The simulations use a 1,000-megawatt (MW) project using hypothetical 15MW turbines designed to represent a commercially scaled and technically feasible scenario that is consistent with industry trends for operating capacity, wind turbine size, spacing and configuration in the summer of 2019.

Project-specific visual simulations would be prepared by a lessee and submitted with actual Construction and Operations Plans (COPs). A project specific environmental and historic preservation review based on the information included in the lessee's COP and visual simulations would be conducted by BOEM. See Guidelines for Information Requirements for a Renewable Energy Construction and Operations Plan.The visual simulations modeled a total of 67 15MW turbines for a total generating capacity of approximately 1,000 MW of renewable energy for each Call Area. Each turbine has a hub height of 486 feet, rotor diameter of 807 feet, and maximum height at the blade tip of 889 feet. Turbine position and spacing within each lease area was modeled with the turbines being distributed in offset rows, with the first row being along the shore-most boundary of the call area and filling in seaward to represent the “most-visible” representation of each wind farm. Turbine spacing was based on a distance equal to eight rotor diameters or 6,460 feet (1968m) apart (slightly over one nautical mile).

In addition, the nighttime simulations are based on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) guidance FAA Advisory Circular AC 70/7460-1L CHG2 “Obstruction Marking and Lighting”, 08/17/2018 which specifies two red lights per turbine nacelle and three lights mounted at a midpoint on each turbine’s tower. The simulation represents lighting on all turbines, but FAA’s guidance allows for the use of Aircraft Detection Lighting Systems (ADLS), which are sensor-based systems designed to detect aircraft as they approach an obstruction or group of obstructions.

Instructions for Viewing the Visual Simulations

The simulations are intended to be viewed as large high-resolution printed panoramas with the printed image attached to curved stands and placed at a proper viewing distance based on the image width. The panoramas cover a field of view 124-degrees horizontally by 55-degrees vertically, which is consistent with the typical human field of view.

For example, a 36”-wide panorama image would be placed at a distance of approximately 16 inches from the viewer. The images viewed on this website are digital representations and the visibility of the turbines projected on a computer screen will depend on the scale at which the image is being viewed. Simply put, zooming in on the image will over-represent visibility and, conversely, zooming out will minimize visibility of the turbines.

Panoramic Visual Simulations (2019): 20 miles to closest Wind Turbine

Panoramic Visual Simulations (2019): 15, 17, 20 miles to Closest Wind Turbine

Meteorological Report

This effort also included an analysis of the meteorological conditions along the coast of California. 

Panoramic Visual Simulations for Construction and Operations Plans

Lessees will prepare and submit project-specific visual simulations with each Construction and Operations Plan (COP). BOEM will conduct a project specific environmental and historic preservation review based on the information included in the lessee's COP and visual simulations. See Guidelines for Information Requirements for a Renewable Energy Construction and Operations Plan and Assessment of Seascape, Landscape, and Visual Impacts of Offshore Wind Energy Developments on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States for more details on timing and methodology.