Glare Analysis and Photo Simulations Provide Transparency throughout Solar Energy Project Development

Glare from solar panels can potentially impact sensitive receptors, such as aircraft pilots, air traffic controllers, motorists, residents, and recreationists. So, glint/glare analysis is increasingly becoming a required component of solar development applications at the local and federal level. Additionally, depending on complexity, project components can be difficult for the public and decision makers to conceptualize without 3D imagery or other graphics. Glare studies combined with realistic and true-to-scale 3D photo simulations allow interested parties to visualize the project within the context of the existing visual landscape and under proposed visual mitigation conditions.

What does Glint/Glare Analysis Entail?

Glare analysis allows a project team to pinpoint the intensity of any potential glare effects on identified sensitive viewers in the surrounding area and quantify what those effects would be at different times of year using project specific details, including panel height, orientation, angle, and surface material, as well as the backtracking technique, employed to minimize panel-on-panel shading and production losses. Once data is gathered from stakeholders including regulatory agencies, interested parties, and the solar developer, these project-specific details are entered into a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved glint/glare modeling application. Then, glare specialists analyze, organize, and summarize model outputs. Glint/glare modeling outputs are reported in a color-coded format of green, yellow, and red glare signifying varying levels of potential ocular impacts, with red glare being the most severe.

Photo Simulations Bring Glare Studies to Life

Glare analysis does not consider potential screening by vegetation or existing structures, so results must be field verified to consider screening effects associated with existing or potential landscape features. Using existing site photographs as background imagery, three-dimensional (3D) photo simulations incorporate 3D models of project components and terrain to illustrate visual change.

For these photo simulations, a 3D designer models all project components to true-scale accuracy and matches the 3D cameras to the background photos’ real-world camera settings and GPS locations. Throughout the modeling process, the designer places all proposed facilities on finished-grade surface and adds lighting to the 3D scene to match the time of day the existing site photographs were taken. Then, the designer renders each view to a high-resolution image, producing a photorealistic before-and-after simulation depicting project components in the context of the real-world landscape.

3D photo simulations allow the project team and interested parties to:

  • Envision potential changes to existing visual character, views associated with landscaping, or structures required for the construction and operation of facilities or to mitigate glare impacts; and
  • Identify possible view obstructions or interruptions to scenic resources or contrasts with existing elements in the landscape.

Then, looking at existing or proposed elements depicted in the 3D scene and considering glare analysis outputs, the project team can further revise and fine tune project elements to reduce the severity of glare or other visual impacts.

Photo simulation of a solar energy project in the desert, visualizing the results of a glare analysis.
Photo simulations are an opportunity to share and illustrate visual compatibility or accurately depict effects. These graphics can also provide support against claims of insufficient disclosure of project scale or character.

Dudek Provides Glare Analysis and Photo Simulations Under One Roof

To service the growing need for glint/glare analysis for solar development applications, Dudek provides glare and photo simulation expertise under one roof. Our visual resource specialists, permitting experts, registered landscape architects, and 3D designers work collaboratively to prepare accurate and informed analyses and photo simulations for our clients.

Dudek prepared the glare analysis and visual simulations for a solar project in Kern County, California located less than one mile from an active airport. After investigating multiple airport approach paths and viewer locations, our glare study combined with visual simulations, enabled our  visual resource experts to conclude that implementation of the project would not result in hazardous glare conditions for pilots and motorists in the area.

Additionally, Dudek is preparing visual simulations and glare analysis for solar projects in Virginia. Utilizing basic project information including location and general orientation of solar arrays, our 3D designers combined this information with models in our photo simulation library to prepare detailed and photorealistic simulations of proposed fencing, solar panels, a battery storage facility, and substation. This information was utilized to inform interested parties and to better help the decision makers understand the visual mitigation proposed as part of the landscaping plan.

Dudek’s approach to visual resource and glare analysis is grounded in methodology established and accepted by state and federal agencies including Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration, FAA, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management. Our process is repeatable and based on the concepts of visual resource management and view/viewshed analysis. Our experts include visual resource specialists, registered landscape architects, permitting experts, glare specialists and 3D photo simulation designers.

For more information on glare analysis and/or 3D photo simulations for your solar energy project, contact Josh Saunders at jsaunders@dudek.com or (760) 479-4283.