Energy transition is going to change our landscape considerably: new thinking is needed

Friday November 3, 2017 10:58

Renewable energy will be a self-evident part of our future living environment everywhere. It constitutes a big challenge for our country as it will not be easy to integrate large numbers of wind turbines and PV farms in the existing landscape. According to ECN and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) a new way of thinking is required about how we shape our landscape to ensure that we will have a living environment that is both beautiful and functional.

Energy generation will increasingly takes place above ground and potentially also closer to home. It will have far-reaching consequences for our living environment as well as our landscape. ‘Energy landscapes’ are our future, and therefore we need to start thinking now about the spatial design of new energy landscapes and the way in which they will come about. That is why ECN and WUR have combined their knowledge about energy technology and landscape architecture in a position paper. This way they aim to contribute to the debate about what is desirable and necessary in order to ensure that the energy transition is on the right track from a spatial perspective. 

“Designing new energy landscapes requires a new way of thinking. ‘Integration’ into the current landscape is not an option as the task is simply too comprehensive. Solar parks alone will require a surface area roughly the size of half the province of Utrecht. Entirely new landscapes need to be created; landscapes that are both valued by people and economically feasible,” the experts of ECN and WUR explain. 

The energy landscapes will form a new layer in the existing landscape. “What matters is that the new layer adds quality. To make this happen, project and technology developers, landscape architects and other environmental designers should collaborate. It is also essential that planning processes are designed and structured in such a way that residents and users are really involved in the energy transition and its consequences for their living environment,” the research team explains.

“Technology is developing rapidly. There are solar panels with colours and prints, which are suitable as a decorative energy producing building element. The designs should be aligned to the wishes formulated in dialogue by residents of a region. This calls for planning, designing and building as part of an intensive partnership between all stakeholders.”

ECN and WUR see the sustainable energy transition both as a challenge and an opportunity for designing new landscapes. They consider the quality of our living environment and the landscape to be one of the preconditions for the success of the design process. “Depending on the type of energy landscape, it is possible to achieve renewable energy technologies in an unobtrusive way, for example in noise barriers along highways, or as an eye-catcher instead, for example in the shape of an energy generating work of art,” the research team explains. 

More information
For more information about this project, please contact Martine Uyterlinde via our online contact form.

Category: Corporate, Solar Energy, Wind Energy, Biomass, Policy Studies