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Solar power plants transform the existing landscape. This landscape change raises concerns about visual impact, land use competition and the end-of-life stage of solar power plants. Existing research stresses the need to address these concerns, arguing for a combined spatial arrangement of solar power plant and landscape: solar landscape. Solar landscapes share the aim to achieve other benefits (e.g. reducing visibility, habitat creation) in addition to electricity generation, yet empirical evidence on solar landscapes is scarce. This comparative analysis of 11 frontrunner cases aims to contribute to the understanding of solar landscapes, by studying the spatial properties visibility, multifunctionality and temporality. Visibility is reduced in all cases. In five cases, however, visibility is partly enhanced in combination with recreational amenities. Between 6 and 14 provisioning, regulating and cultural functions were found in the cases. Functions were located beneath arrays, between arrays and adjacent to photovoltaic patches. Temporal considerations were identified in most cases, yet only two cases introduced new landscape features to enhance future use of the sites after decomissioning. Across cases, this case study shows how contemporary concerns about solar power plants, such as visual impact, land use competition and the end-of-life stage are addressed. Although the cases altogether present a portfolio of measures responding to societal concerns, the full potential of the three key properties is yet to be explored. Furthermore, this comparative analysis highlights the need to address emerging trade-offs between spatial properties and to discern between different types of solar landscapes. The used analytical framework may supplement the assessment of solar power plants to examine not only negative, but also positive impacts.
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Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
1364-0321/© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
Next generation solar power plants? A comparative analysis of frontrunner
solar landscapes in Europe
D. Oudes
, S. Stremke
Wageningen University & Research, Environmental Sciences Group, Landscape Architecture Chair Group, PO Box 47, 6700 AA, Wageningen, the Netherlands
Academy of Architecture, Amsterdam University of the Arts, 1011 PG, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Utility scale solar energy (USSE)
Ground mounted solar system
Photovoltaic landscape
Solar park
Energy landscape
Energy transition
Ecosystem services
Case study
Solar power plants transform the existing landscape. This landscape change raises concerns about visual impact,
land use competition and the end-of-life stage of solar power plants. Existing research stresses the need to address
these concerns, arguing for a combined spatial arrangement of solar power plant and landscape: solar landscape.
Solar landscapes share the aim to achieve other benets (e.g. reducing visibility, habitat creation) in addition to
electricity generation, yet empirical evidence on solar landscapes is scarce. This comparative analysis of 11
frontrunner cases aims to contribute to the understanding of solar landscapes, by studying the spatial properties
visibility, multifunctionality and temporality. Visibility is reduced in all cases. In ve cases, however, visibility is
partly enhanced in combination with recreational amenities. Between 6 and 14 provisioning, regulating and
cultural functions were found in the cases. Functions were located beneath arrays, between arrays and adjacent
to photovoltaic patches. Temporal considerations were identied in most cases, yet only two cases introduced
new landscape features to enhance future use of the sites after decomissioning. Across cases, this case study
shows how contemporary concerns about solar power plants, such as visual impact, land use competition and the
end-of-life stage are addressed. Although the cases altogether present a portfolio of measures responding to
societal concerns, the full potential of the three key properties is yet to be explored. Furthermore, this
comparative analysis highlights the need to address emerging trade-offs between spatial properties and to discern
between different types of solar landscapes. The used analytical framework may supplement the assessment of
solar power plants to examine not only negative, but also positive impacts.
1. Introduction
Solar power plants (SPP) have been constructed at an increasing rate
over the past decades [1]. These power plants, consisting of
ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) arrays and electrical infrastructure,
transform the landscape [27]. Landscape is here dened as ‘an area, as
perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and
interaction of natural and/or human factors[8]. SPP not only transform
existing landscape patterns, that is the size, shape, arrangement and
distribution of individual landscape elements [9], but also how the
landscape is perceived by inhabitants and other landscape users [10,11].
These landscape transformations raise societal concerns about visual
impact, land use competition and the end-of-life stage. Visual impact is a
key concern with respect to SPPs [2,12,13]. SPPs can have visual impact
due to their scale, color, pattern and articiality [2,1416] and, as a
consequence, inuence perception adversely [11]. Furthermore, SPPs
require land previously occupied by other uses and therefore increase
land use pressure. SPPs can, for example, result in the loss of agricultural
land [17,18] and also affect habitats, as vegetation is degraded or
removed [17,19,20] and soil is moved or covered [18]. These land use
changes can be substantial in a short period of time [21] and require
recovery time for vegetation and soil [19]. The common life-span of SPP
is 2030 years, due to the life expectancy of the modules [22]. Concerns
about the end-of-life stage of SPPs are whether decommissioning will
take place [23] and if so, what the state of the resulting landscape will be
[24]. All these three groups of concerns have a clear spatial dimension
Abbreviations: SPP, solar power plant; PV, photovoltaic; LAOR, land area occupation ratio; GCR, ground coverage ratio; CICES, Common International Classi-
cation of Ecosystem Services.
* Corresponding author. Wageningen University & Research, Environmental Sciences Group, Landscape Architecture Chair Group, PO Box 47, 6700 AA, Wage-
ningen, the Netherlands.
E-mail address: (D. Oudes).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
journal homepage:
Received 15 July 2020; Received in revised form 24 February 2021; Accepted 11 April 2021
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
and can result in negative responses of local inhabitants and other
landscape users towards SPP [2,11,12,25]. Consequently, these re-
sponses may threaten the progress of the energy transition [26,27].
Existing research points to the need of SPP to address societal con-
cerns, by attending to three key properties: visibility, multifunctionality
and temporality. Visibility refers to whether an SPP is observable by
landscape users from a certain location [13,28]. Visibility can be
changed, for example, by using vegetation for screening or adjusting the
size of the SPP to the characteristics of the host landscape [2,11,29].
Multifunctionality refers to the capacity of a certain area of land to serve
multiple purposes and fulll several needs at the same time [3032].
Electricity generation in SPP can be combined, for example, with
ecological restoration [24,3335] and outdoor education [2,24]. Tem-
porality is a relatively new, emerging topic in energy landscape research
and refers to the dynamic character of SPP [4,23]. Elements introduced
during the SPP construction have the potential to enhance the future
landscape or inhibit certain developments after decommissioning of the
solar infrastructure [4,24]. Temporality is also relevant in the context of
recycling energy landscapes: renewable energy technologies are intro-
duced at sites formerly used for conventional energies. In Nijmegen in
the Netherlands, for example, an SPP is built on a site previously
occupied by a coal-red power plant.
Others have recently introduced the concept of ‘photovoltaic land-
scapeor ‘solar landscapethat encompasses a joint approach between
SPP and landscape [2,36]. This approach involves a combined spatial
arrangement of SPP and landscape where solar infrastructure is adapted
(e.g. height of arrays, distance between arrays) and ‘landscape features
are included (e.g. hedgerows, wildower meadows). While contempo-
rary spatial arrangements of SPPs are optimized for energy and/or
economic benets, spatial arrangements of solar landscapes aim to
achieve other benets (e.g. reducing visibility, habitat creation) in
addition to electricity generation [13,16,24,29]. For this paper, we
make use of and build upon the novel concept of solar landscapes to
examine SPPs that pay attention to visibility, multifunctionality and
However, few studies have investigated the visual, functional and
temporal properties of constructed cases of solar landscapes. Lobaccaro
et al. [36] is the only study that examines spatial properties of built solar
landscapes. They partly address visibility and multifunctionality and do
not discuss temporality. Anyhow, most studies overlook the spatial
arrangement of SPP and landscape [14,37,38], focus on a single prop-
erty [16,35,39], or present theoretical discussions on what solar land-
scapes can be or should be [2,29,33], but not on what solar landscapes
are. The following research question is central to this paper: what are the
visual, functional and temporal properties of frontrunner solar landscapes in
This research aims to contribute to the growing body of knowledge
on solar landscapes by analyzing and comparing the spatial properties of
constructed solar landscapes in Europe. This study used expert consul-
tation and desk-study to identify so-called ‘frontrunnerSPPs. Insights in
the innovative properties of these frontrunner cases constitute a vital
contribution to the debate on how societal concerns about SPP can be
resolved. Due to the novelty of the topic, an analytical framework was
developed for the case study, based on a literature review. This frame-
work focusing on visibility, multifunctionality and temporality of SPP
may also enrich environmental impact assessments and multi-criteria
decision analyses of SPP in response to prominent societal concerns.
Furthermore, a better understanding of frontrunner cases, in combina-
tion with the cultivation of solar landscape vocabulary, is believed to
support policy and decision makers, SPP developers, designers and other
stakeholders to conceive solar landscapes supported by landscape users
The second section of this paper presents the methods and materials.
The framework for the case analysis is presented in section three. The
results and discussion section rst presents the solar infrastructure and
landscape feature properties, followed by visibility, multifunctionality
and temporality. The paper is concluded in section ve.
2. Methods and materials
2.1. Case-study approach
This study examines the spatial properties of built solar landscapes.
We adopted a case-study approach in our research, as this allows for the
description of a contemporary phenomenon in its spatial context [41].
We used a multiple embedded case design to document and compare a
high variety of spatial properties across all cases [41].
2.2. Case selection
Our research focuses on the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ger-
many and Italy, as these countries have shown increasing attention for
solar landscapes. In addition, the travel distance and language of these
countries allowed us to study the cases within the time and resource
provided. We aimed to study cases of SPP that were recognized for being
at the front of addressing societal concerns and providing functions
additional to electricity generation. We identied so-called ‘frontrunner
casesthrough recognition in the form of awards granted, for example by
solar industry, and expert judgement. We reached out to photovoltaic
and environmental design experts using personal contacts and
approaching photovoltaic developer and environmental design associ-
We asked the experts to provide us with the names of SPPs that
provided benets besides to electricity generation, such as ecological
restoration, recreation or aesthetics.
The expert contact and the desk study on SPP awards resulted in a
longlist of over 30 cases. A quick-scan was used to identify their main
spatial properties. Based on the quick-scan, we selected cases that
complied to two criteria that are key to solar landscapes. First, the case
needed to demonstrate a combined spatial arrangement of SPP and
landscape. Second, the case needed to include new landscape features in
addition to solar infrastructure, for example water retention areas, op-
portunities for recreation or habitat patches. For each case, these criteria
were evaluated using design maps or project documentation and
conrmed by satellite imagery or eld visits. We diversied according to
spatial properties, as well as landscape type and project scale; variety in
the latter two are expected to increase the variety of spatial properties
[13,29]. Ultimately, 11 cases were selected (Fig. 1 and Table 1).
2.3. Research process
For each case, we performed a spatial analysis [42,43] and studied
accompanying project documentation. The spatial and document anal-
ysis was subsequently veried by eld observations. To start, the spatial
analysis was conducted using a case-study protocol, to strengthen con-
sistency of the analysis by the multiple researchers involved [41]. This
protocol was tested and further rened by analyzing two contrasting
cases. The properties that were used to guide the spatial analysis are
presented in section 3. Results of the analysis were presented in maps,
text and tables. Data used for the mapping were design maps as well as
recent and historical satellite imagery.
Next, project documentation was used to conrm and specify the
spatial arrangement of SPP and landscape. The document analysis was
mainly based on project reports and websites that were collected until
June 2020. This data was occasionally complemented by insights from
Associations in Germany: German Solar Association (BSW) and German
Association of Landscape Architects (BDLA). The Netherlands: Holland Solar,
Netherlands association for garden- and landscape architecture (NVTL) and
Dutch association of urban designers and planners (BNSP). Italy: Italian Asso-
ciation of Landscape Architecture (AIAPP). United Kingdom: Solar Trade As-
sociation and Landscape Institute.
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
case informants. Finally, intermediate results of spatial and document
analysis were enhanced and veried by eld observations that took
place from May until October 2019.
The results of the individual cases were synthesized to identify
similarities and differences across cases [41]. Maps, textual descriptions
and numerical date were aggregated using tables and examined along
the categories of the framework for case analysis (section 3). Aggre-
gating the data of all cases helped to prole the individual cases, specify
the framework for case analysis and subsequently enhance the cross-case
synthesis in an iterative manner.
3. Framework for case analysis
The framework for case analysis was developed deductively (draw-
ing from literature) and inductively (drawing from the cases) through
multiple iterations of application and reection. The framework was
used to analyze the spatial properties of the embedded cases. The larger
host landscape was analyzed as well, as this forms the backdrop for the
spatial properties. Solar infrastructure and landscape features refer to
physical changes in the landscape that can, to some extent, be examined
independently [e.g. 38,44]. Contrastingly, visibility, multifunctionality
and temporality are emergent properties: properties of the whole revealed
by interactions between individual characteristics [45,46]. These
properties of solar landscapes were analyzed by jointly examining solar
infrastructure and landscape features [2,36] (Fig. 2). This section rst
introduces the solar infrastructure and landscape feature properties
(3.1), followed by the procedure for the study of emergent properties
visibility, multifunctionality and temporality (3.2).
3.1. Solar infrastructure and landscape features
The spatial analysis started by identifying landscape type and pre-
vious land use function. These properties of the host landscape informed
the subsequent analysis of solar infrastructure and landscape features.
Solar infrastructure of SPP is discussed extensively in the literature
[e.g. 2,16,29]. We created an overview of properties found in literature
and specied these with the ndings of the case analysis. For solar
infrastructure, the spatial properties are grouped in three nested levels:
the system as a whole, the patch as distinct group of arrays, and the array
as specic object (Table 2).
Literature reports on both potential and realized landscape features
of SPP [2,20,34,36]. We used the main categories identied in the
literature to group the individual features found in the cases (Table 2),
namely ecological, recreational and educational, agricultural and water
retention features.
3.2. Emergent properties of solar landscape
3.2.1. Visibility
The combined spatial arrangement of SPP and landscape affects the
visibility of the solar infrastructure [16,29,39,50]. To investigate this
relationship, rst the existing and new landscape features at the edge of
the solar landscapes were analyzed. The edge is dened as the space
between solar infrastructure and the project boundary (Fig. 3a). Second,
the part of the solar infrastructure visible to on-road observers was
analyzed [28] and subsequently expressed in the degree of visibility. The
degree of visibility is the part of the outer edge of the solar infrastructure
visible to observers, as seen from the rst line of observation (Fig. 3a).
The rst line of observation is the set of roads or paths closest to the edge
Fig. 1. The 11 selected cases. Scale of the images varies, see Table 1 for actual size of the cases (source satellite imagery: Google Earth and Kadaster).
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
of the case. We distinguish between visible, partly visible and invisible,
based on visibility levels as presented in Ref. [13]. Visibility from a
larger distance and for on-site observers [28,29] was examined during
the eld observations but not included here to allow a comprehensive
comparison of the 11 embedded cases.
3.2.2. Multifunctionality
Solar landscapes provide multiple services and functions [2,3,51].
We use the term function as it indicates a capacity to deliver a certain
service. In this research, we aimed to identify deliberately added func-
tions with a certain expected service. The quantication and assessment
of services is beyond the scope of this comparative analysis of 11
frontrunner cases. The Common International Classication of
Ecosystem Services (CICES) was used to systematically identify and
describe functions [52]. For each case, a list of deliberately added
functions was identied in project documentation and subsequently
veried during eld observations. These lists were discussed and
adjusted during multiple workshops among involved researchers to
ensure cross-case consistency. Using CICES, we analyzed the presence
and number of functions identied in the cases. Three types of multi-
functionality were identied: array multifunctionality (beneath arrays),
patch multifunctionality (on patch area and not underneath arrays) and
adjacent multifunctionality (next to patches) (Fig. 3b).
3.2.3. Temporality
Landscapes change through time, largely driven by societal demands
and expressing changing societal values [53]. The demand for renew-
able energy results in the introduction of energy technologies that
transform landscapes within a relatively short period of time; this is why
the development of SPP is considered dynamic. The life-span of SPPs is
relatively short (2030 years) compared to other, more permanent en-
ergy technologies, such as nuclear power plants [4]. Others have studied
the construction and operation/maintenance stages of SPP [54,55]. This
study adopted a wider temporal perspective and focused on the former
state of the host landscape (i.e. before construction), the case during
operation and maintenance stage and the decommissioning stage
(Fig. 4). Project documentation was used to identify if and how tem-
porality was considered in these three stages: (1) inclusion of existing
features of the host landscape in the case, (2) active management of
landscape features during operation and maintenance stage and (3)
plans for the decommissioning stage.
4. Results & discussion
The results are presented and discussed in three parts. The rst two
parts present the solar infrastructure (4.1) and landscape feature (4.2)
properties. The third part (4.3) takes the perspective of the solar land-
scape as a whole and discusses the visibility, multifunctionality and
temporality of the examined cases.
4.1. Solar infrastructure
4.1.1. System layout and host landscape pattern
We found that the way the system layout responded to the host
landscape differed between cases with a former agricultural use and
those with a browneld use. In the nine cases with a former agricultural
use, the system size and plot size were key factors in the way the system
layout responded to the pattern of the host landscape. In only one case
the system was entirely located within a single plot (Monreale). In the
other eight cases, solar infrastructure was distributed over multiple
plots, whether the cases were small (e.g. Sinnegreide, 12 ha) or large (e.
g. G¨
ansdorf, 181 ha). In these multiple-plot cases, the plots of the host
landscape either remained (almost) completely intact (ve cases) or
were aggregated into a single larger plot (three cases). For some cases,
although parcellation remained intact, the individual plots are poten-
tially not always recognized as such by observers. Recognition of
Table 1
General information on the 11 cases.
Cases Latitude Year of
Country Power
Energy density
Land Area Occupation
Ratio (LAOR)
Technology Landscape type Previous land use
1. G¨
ansdorf 484812 2009 Germany 54,0 180,9 0,30 22% Fixed tilt Open agricultural Agriculture: highly productive arable
2. Kwekerij 520324 2016 Netherlands 2,0 7,1 0,28 16% Fixed tilt Semi-open bocage landscape Agriculture: low grade, tree nursery
3. Valentano 423519 2011 Italy 6,0 17,6 0,34 23% Fixed tilt Open agricultural Agriculture: highly productive arable
4. Southill 515131 2016 United
4,5 18,1 0,25 16% Fixed tilt Semi-enclosed valley side farmland Agriculture: extensive, low grade
5. Hemau 490210 2002 Germany 4,0 18,0 0,22 20% Fixed tilt Enclosed, agricultural landscape
with large evergreen forests
Browneld: military ammunition
depot within production forest
6. Laarberg 520643 2018 Netherlands 2,2 6,4 0,35 21% Fixed tilt Semi-open bocage landscape Agriculture: intensive grassland and
corn production
7. Sinnegreide 532604 2018 Netherlands 11,8 12,0 0,98 53% Fixed tilt Open agricultural Agriculture: grassland
8. Mühlenfeld 512751 2013 Germany 3,5 24,4 0,14 10% Fixed tilt Semi-open bocage landscape Browneld: gravel mining and
nature development
9. Midden-
531048 2019 Netherlands 103,0 121,2 0,85 61% Fixed tilt Open peat landscape Agriculture: arable and grassland
10. Monreale 375207 2010 Italy 5,0 28,0 0,18 13% Single-axis
Undulated open agricultural
Agriculture: extensive, wheat and
olive groves
11. Southwick 505250 2015 United
48,0 83,4 0,58 35% Fixed tilt Enclosed, mixed farmland/
Agriculture: arable and grassland
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
individual plots can occur if there is high vegetation along the plot
border and/or a eld margin; a zone between plot border and PV patch.
In the two cases with a former browneld use, the system layout was
adjusted to site specic elements of the previous land use function, for
example a gravel mining pit in Mühlenfeld.
4.1.2. Patch conguration and density
The system layout consists of multiple PV patches that are each
congured within a specic plot. Five different types of patch congu-
rations were found (Fig. 5). Most cases consisted of a single congura-
tion. In the responsive conguration, the size of the PV patch
Fig. 2. Solar infrastructure and landscape feature properties refer to physical changes that can be examined independently. Visibility, multifunctionality and
temporality are emergent properties of the solar landscape as a whole.
Table 2
Framework for the analysis of the host landscape, solar infrastructure and landscape features.
Category Sub-category Property Description Literature
Host landscape Landscape type Open/enclosed, parcellation/plot sizes, existing landscape infrastructure/features,
urban settlements.
Previous land use Previous land use(s) at the site [19,47]
Solar infrastructure System Layout The number, size and position of the patches as part of the solar system. [11,29]
Response to
The response of the system layout to the original parcellation. [29]
Patch Conguration Size, position and alignment of the of patch within parcellation. [2,11,16,29,36]
Density Density of the array within a patch. Indicator is the ground-coverage-ratio (GCR),
which is the array length (L) divided by the row-to-row pitch (R)
Array Orientation Orientation or azimuth of the arrays. Traditional orientation (east-west or north-south)
results in a stripes pattern, but other types of patterns are possible if the azimuth is
Dimensions Dimension of array, determined by: tilt of modules, total height of the array from the
ground; length (l) of array; width of array; layout of array (orientation of modules and
number of rows);
Concurrence Presence of multiple PV technologies or types of modules in a single case [14]
Materials Color of modules, materials used in supporting structure. [16,29,49]
Landscape features Ecological Feature Features that support ecological functions, for example patches of wildowers or
Recreational and
Feature Features that support recreational and education functions, such as community
gathering spaces and outdoor classrooms.
Agricultural Feature Features that support agricultural functions, such as grazing or orchards. [2,24,33]
Water management Feature Features that support hydrological functions, such as water retention areas. [30,33,34]
Fig. 3. a) Visibility of the solar infrastructure is expressed by the ratio of the outer edge of the solar infrastructure that is visible, partly visible or invisible (based on
visibility levels as presented in Ref. [13]). b) Multifunctionality beneath the arrays (array multifunctionality), on the patch area (patch multifunctionality) and next to
patches (adjacent multifunctionality).
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
predominantly matched the plot size. For example, in Sinnegreide, PV
arrays with various widths were used to cover the entire plot; the
original parcellation remained intact. Contrastingly, in the irresponsive
conguration, the patch shape was mainly self-referential, which,
dependent on the plot shape, can result in left-over spaces. In G¨
constructed in 2009, the limited exibility in array width of that time
can have contributed to this conguration.
In the split conguration, the patch responded to the shape of the plot,
yet only partially covered the plot area (2550%). This partial coverage
resulted in a perceived split of the original plot. In Southill for example,
only the south-western part of the plot was used for arrays, the
remainder of the plot consisted of landscape features. The xed size of
the single-axis tracker system employed in Monreale seems to have
resulted in roughly equal patch sizes.
In the islands conguration, a single patch was divided into sub-
patches and the patch shape was almost entirely self-referential. The
plot was only for a small part (3045%) covered by arrays. In the
Kwekerij and Laarberg for example, this conguration resulted in mul-
tiple small PV patches dispersed across the plot. These congurations
corroborate the proposals for patch variations by Scognamiglio [2]. The
irresponsive, split and island conguration increase the spatial hetero-
geneity of the landscape, dependent on the previous land-use. In a host
landscape with monofunctional agricultural plots, these congurations
increase the variety of functions within a single plot, countering agri-
cultural upscaling often seen in the countryside [56]. However, some of
these congurations are less aligned with landscape parcellation and
recent research has shown this can negatively inuence perception [11].
For browneld cases, the patch conguration coincided with the
strategy for the system layout: site specic elements determined the
conguration. In the case of Hemau for example, the patch was shaped
around the existing (elevated) bunkers and identied hotspots for
biodiversity were also excluded for electricity generation. This fth,
Fig. 4. Temporal properties: former state of the host landscape, case during operation/maintenance stage and decommissioning stage.
Fig. 5. Five types of patch congurations. Main determinants for the patch congurations are alignment to plot and coverage of the plot by the PV patch. Case names
between brackets indicate a certain conguration was identied, but it was secondary to another, primary conguration.
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
incidental conguration, was also found in other cases in addition to
another, primary conguration. In these cases, elements were high-
lighted that otherwise remained invisible, for example underground
infrastructure became visible as a blank space between arrays.
The patch density is determined by the width of the array and the row-
to-row-pitch, expressed by the ground-coverage-ratio [48] and ranged
for the cases between 0,35 and 0,84 (Table 3). Existing research points to
two consequences of patch density: visual impact and impact on land use
Potential visibility affected patch density in three cases: the Kwe-
kerij, Sinnegreide and Southwick. In these cases a lower, secondary
ground-coverage-ratio (GCR) was found where a high visibility of the
solar system was expected. For Southwick though, we could not conrm
a causal relationship. Although Scognamiglio [2] stresses that a low
patch density is pivotal to increase multifunctionality, no relationship
between multifunctionality and patch density was found (see also 4.3.2).
Cases with multifunctionality beneath arrays or on the patch area had a
GCR ranging from 0,35 to 0,73, covering almost the entire spectrum of
GCR found in the cases.
4.1.3. Array orientation, dimensions and materials
On the level of arrays, we found that in all cases the orientation of the
PV arrays was optimized for maximum solar energy generation. This
optimization was for 10 cases east-west oriented arrays facing south, and
for one case with a single-axis tracker north-south oriented arrays
(Table 4, see also Table 1). In other words, the type of pattern was the
same for all the cases: parallel stripes [2]. To relinquish energy opti-
mization and vary the azimuth is considered a key feature of solar
landscapes. A variable azimuth can improve ecological performance or
allow the solar infrastructure to align with the landscape pattern [2,11,
16] that, in turn, can result in new patch congurations. In addition,
non-optimal azimuth angles reduce peak loads on the electricity grid
and allow for a more exible integration into the landscape [1,57]. If
business models can incorporate these benets, non-optimal azimuth
angles can also result in an improved alignment of array and landscape
The dimension of the arrays is specic to each case, although the
height was variable in three cases (Table 4). In two cases (the Kwekerij
and Sinnegreide), arrays were found with two different heights. Arrays
with a lower height were closest to where most observers were expected
(see also table GCR). In Monreale the difference in height of the arrays
was caused by partial ground levelling.
The color of the arrays in the cases was the blue commonly seen in
SPP. However, the rapid development of colored modules in the built
environment may also permeate to solar landscapes [58]. Only in
Hemau, modules were three different shades of blue, as at the time of
construction (2002) suppliers were not able to deliver the requested
amount of modules from a single type of module. Consequently, Hemau
is also the only case where concurrence was identied. The same applies
for the type of supporting structure used: all cases except Hemau used
metal structures, while Hemau used a wooden structure.
4.1.4. Reections on solar infrastructure across frontrunner SPPs
Southwick illustrates that combining solar infrastructure with land-
scape occurs at multiple scales: on the system level, the size of the
existing plots determined the system layout; on the patch level, indi-
vidual patches matched the shape of the plots. Even more, the existing
parcellation remained visually recognizable as existing hedgerows were
combined with a sufcient eld margin around the PV patch. This
spatial arrangement required additional space, resulting in the trade-off
of a decreased maximum amount of arrays (lower LAOR value).
4.2. Landscape features
4.2.1. Ecological features
Several ecological features were found in the cases: patches of dry or
wet vegetation, vegetative buffers, built structures for roosting, nesting
and hibernating, wildlife permeable fencing and some cases incorpo-
rated existing vegetation into the system layout (Table 5).
Vegetative patches were identied in all cases, for example wild-
ower elds or shrubs. Vegetative buffers were found in seven cases,
often combined with screening function at the edge of the case (see also
4.3.1). Buffers were for example hedgerows, tree rows or reed zones. In
one case, Hemau, an existing monoculture forest patch was removed to
avoid shadow on the arrays. The presence of vegetative patches and
buffers in the cases reects the growing evidence that SPP contribute to
local biodiversity of [24,34,35,59]. Several similarities in ecological
features were found, independent of landscape type: hedgerows, or-
chards and ower elds were found in many cases. Landscape features
dependent on landscape type and other contextual characteristics
become especially important when SPP become a more familiar phe-
nomenon in the landscape [60]. In ve cases, built structures for
roosting, nesting and hibernating, such as beehives or insect hotels, were
identied. In nine cases wildlife permeable fencing was realized by
either lifting the fence or by the addition of small mammal gates. These
ndings show that in most cases landscape fragmentation is addressed
[20,36]. In ve cases existing vegetation was retained, such as hedge-
rows or solitary trees, while it is not uncommon that existing vegetation
is removed [17,20]. In retaining vegetation, these cases address the loss
of identity elements, or fragmentation of the countryside [17].
4.2.2. Recreational and educational features
Recreational and/or educational features were identied in 9 of the
11 cases, conrming the potential suggested in earlier research [2,24].
All recreational and educational features were located next to a PV
patch, and not beneath or between the arrays as has been identied in
the Solar Strand, USA [2]. Recreational and educational features were
for example lookouts, benches and information panels. The Kwekerij,
Laarberg and Mühlenfeld seemed to actively enable recreation by add-
ing multiple recreational facilities and connecting the case to a local
recreational network. The other cases seemed to be addressing occa-
sional or accidental on-site observers. Recreational features were absent
in Midden-Groningen, Monreale and Southill.
In the large-scale cases G¨
ansdorf, Midden-Groningen and Southwick,
Table 3
Patch density of the cases expressed by the ground-coverage-ratio (GCR). In
three cases, two different array types were found, resulting in two values for the
GCR. The GCR is calculated by dividing the array length (L) by the row-to-row
pitch (R) [48].
Cases GCR of primary
array type (L/R)
GCR or secondary
array type (L/R)
Location of secondary
array type
1. G¨
ansdorf 0,45 n/a
2. Kwekerij 0,44 0,41 Most visible patches for
nearby inhabitants.
3. Valentano 0,49 n/a
4. Southill 0,63 n/a
5. Hemau 0,35 n/a
6. Laarberg 0,52 n/a
7. Sinnegreide 0,84 0,69 Most visible patch near
8. Mühlenfeld 0,44 n/a
9. Midden-
0,73 n/a
10. Monreale 0,40 n/a
11. Southwick 0,63 0,57 Most visible patch in
west compartment.
A recent example in the Netherlands is the project ‘Energy gardenAssen-
e/energietuin-assen-zuid/(in Dutch).
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
the space between the patches was occasionally publicly accessible
(Table 6). In G¨
ansdorf and Midden-Groningen, this access was the
consequence of practical considerations (land ownership and mainte-
nance respectively), while in Southwick the patch shape was deliber-
ately adjusted to maintain an existing path. Across cases, no roads or
paths formerly accessible were removed or cut-off. Moreover, in the
Kwekerij a path network was created between the patches and access
within the fence is possible on a daily basis. This study shows that solar
landscapes are able to maintain or increase landscape connectivity [61].
4.2.3. Agricultural features
Nine cases included agricultural features, ranging from small fruit
tree orchards to substantial olive groves. This high presence of agricul-
tural features may point to addressing the loss of agricultural land [17].
In Monreale, a large olive grove was located next to the solar system, and
the left-over spaces within the solar system were planted with olive and
almond trees. In G¨
ansdorf, the case comprised a part of the former arable
land. In three cases (Laarberg, Hemau and Midden-Groningen) sheep
were kept inside for grazing. In ve cases (G¨
ansdorf, the Kwekerij,
Southill, Laarberg and Sinnegreide) small-scale agriculture targeting the
local community (fruit orchards, vegetable gardens) was identied.
4.2.4. Water management features
Local water management was found in ve of the cases. This study
identied water retention areas, in addition to techniques of water
recuperation [36]. Water retention areas were part of two cases (Laar-
berg and the Kwekerij). In Laarberg, water run-off from a (future)
business area can be stored beneath PV arrays, and the solar infra-
structure was adjusted to allow for temporary ooding (above-ground
cables). In Monreale, rain water recuperated from the PV patches, was
stored in a basin to be used for the adjacent olive grove. In two other
cases (Sinnegreide and Valentano) waterways were enhanced or
4.2.5. Reections on landscape features across frontrunner SPPs
Laarberg includes multiple categories of landscape features:
ecological, recreational, agricultural and water retention features have
been combined with electricity generation on only 6,4 ha. Southill, on
the contrary, displays focus on a single category: ecological restauration
is central and to this end human access is limited.
Furthermore, in Southill and Hemau spaces suitable for electricity
generation have been deliberately kept free to achieve ecological ob-
jectives. In other words, spatial arrangement of solar infrastructure is
adjusted and even sub-optimal to accommodate other objectives. The
Kwekerij and G¨
ansdorf are examples of synergy between functions:
recreational and ecological values are increased by locating strips of
wildowers next to roads and pathways.
4.3. Solar landscape
Three emergent properties that arise from the combined spatial
arrangement of SPP and landscape - in this paper and elsewhere
conceptualized as solar landscape - are presented in this section: visi-
bility, multifunctionality and temporality.
Table 4
Array orientation, height, materials and concurrence.
Array orientation Array height Array materials Concurrence
Cases Adjustment to
Optimum for solar energy
Color modules Supporting
1. G¨
ansdorf x consistent Blue Metal no
2. Kwekerij x variable Blue Metal no
3. Valentano x consistent Blue Metal no
4. Southill x consistent Blue Metal no
5. Hemau x consistent Blue (three
Wood Yes, three types of modules and
array types
6. Laarberg x consistent Blue Metal no
7. Sinnegreide x variable Blue Metal no
8. Mühlenfeld x consistent Blue Metal no
9. Midden-
x consistent Blue Metal no
10. Monreale x variable Blue Metal no
11. Southwick x consistent Blue Metal no
Table 5
Ecological features found in the cases (x =new; [x] =enhanced, not completely new; () =removal).
Ecological features
Cases Total Patch of dry
Patch of wet
Built structures for roosting, nesting
and hibernating
Wildlife permeable
Retaining existing
1. G¨
ansdorf 3 x x x
2. Kwekerij 5 x x x x x yes
3. Valentano 3 x x x
4. Southill 4/
x [x] x x yes
5. Hemau 3/(1) x/() x x
6. Laarberg 5/
x x [x] x x yes
7. Sinnegreide 3 x x x
8. Mühlenfeld 3 x x x yes
9. Midden-
3 x x x
10. Monreale 3 x x x
11. Southwick 5/
x x/[x] x x yes
Total 10/(1) 5 7/[3] 5 10 5
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
4.3.1. Visibility
This section presents the visibility of the solar infrastructure based on
an analysis of the existing and new landscape features at the edge of the
solar landscape. The edge. The edge of the cases consisted of existing eye-level
vegetation (appendix A) and new edge measures (appendix B), and in
each case the solar infrastructure was completely surrounded by a fence.
Existing eye-level vegetation, such as forest patches or hedgerows, were
found in eight cases, with ve cases consisting of over 60% existing eye-
level vegetation along the edge. New edge measures consisted of land-
scape features, for example hedgerows or a reed zone. Three types of
measures were applied in the cases: removal of existing landscape fea-
tures, enhancing existing landscape features and new landscape features
(appendix B). Reducing visibility of solar infrastructure. In all cases, the visi-
bility was deliberately reduced, either through siting within existing
vegetation or through new edge measures with screening function [16,
39]. The highest ratio of a visible edge in a single case was 30%
(Mühlenfeld). Contrastingly, in three cases clear views on the solar
system were almost absent (Fig. 6).
Southwick, Laarberg, Mühlenfeld, Hemau and Southill combined
low visibility with few new landscape features and many existing
landscape features. Existing vegetation, sometimes enhanced, was used
for screening purposes. This combination supports the notion that
careful site selection is an important aspect to achieve low visibility
without the need for many new edge measures [29,39]. Patch congu-
ration also inuenced visibility. In Southill for example, positioning the
patch into the lower lying part of the plot reduced the visibility from
higher located roads [16,28,39].
Monreale, Midden-Groningen, Sinnegreide, Valentano and G¨
combined a low amount of existing eye-level vegetation along the edge
(<11%) with a high degree of new screening features (85100%).
Introduction of eye-level vegetation that is not typically found in open
landscapes may have an adverse effect on the landscape character [11,
16,39]. In some cases, screening measures provided other functions as
well. For example, in G¨
ansdorf an orchard was planted to reduce visi-
bility from the road and at the same time produce fruit. Enhancing visibility of the solar infrastructure. The overall
reduction of visibility was contrasted by measures that deliberately
enhanced visibility. In G¨
ansdorf, the Kwekerij, Mühlenfeld, Sinnegreide
and Laarberg, features were added that provided visitors with a clear
view of the solar system (Fig. 7). In the rst three cases, the solar
infrastructure can be seen from a lookout, while the latter two cases
feature an area at the edge of the case that provided amenities for vis-
itors to stay for a short period of time. These ve cases showed a com-
bination of two strategies with respect to visibility: in general, visibility
is reduced, but at a specic point visibility of the solar infrastructure is
enhanced. The latter strategy seems to reect ‘embracing visibility of
energy facilities, which can be part of a place branding approach [62].
This research shows that the cases addressed visibility [5,11,13,14,17,
18], and at the same time aimed to reframe visibility from a mainly
negative impact into a potential positive impact.
4.3.2. Multifunctionality
Solar landscapes that provide functions additional to electricity
generation can be considered multifunctional. In this section, we further
detail the multifunctionality of the cases by examining the presence and
number of functions, as well as three types of multifunctionality. The
section is concluded with reections on the assessment of
multifunctionality. Presence and number of functions. The studied cases provide a
Table 6
Recreational and educational features and accessibility in the cases.
Recreational and educational features Accessibility
Cases Total Lookout Information
Benches Picnic
gathering site
Charging point
Node in local
1. G¨
ansdorf 1 x x
2. Kwekerij 9 x x x x x x x x x x
3. Valentano 1 x x
4. Southill 1 x x
5. Hemau 1 x x
6. Laarberg 4 x x x x x
2 x x x
8. Mühlenfeld 5 x x x x x x
9. Midden-
0 x
10. Monreale 0 x
2 x x x
Total 3 5 2 3 1 1 1 2 1 3 4 7 3 1
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
multitude of different functions. Of the 65 functions in the CICES model
of ecosystem services, 18 were found in the cases (appendix C). The
function Providing habitats for wild plants and animals (, was the
only function identied in all cases, besides Solar power ( Two
other functions were identied in nine out of eleven cases: Pollinating our
fruit trees and other plants ( and Screening unsightly things
( Small-scale agricultural functions, such as grazing sheep
(, food production ( were found in nine cases. These
functions conrm that the cases aim to mitigate impacts of SPP identi-
ed in earlier research, such as habitat destruction and fragmentation,
decrease of wildlife and biodiversity [19,20,63] and land use impact or
loss of productive land [18,19,47,64].
From the 18 identied functions, four were provisioning, seven
regulating and seven were cultural functions. All three types of functions
were found in all cases. The total number of functions ranged from 6 to
14 (Fig. 8).
No clear relationship was found between the number of functions
and the land area occupation ratio (LAOR, see Table 1) [2]. Cases with a
high LAOR (highest ratio found was 61%) still supported multiple
functions, although these cases represented the lower end of the range of
functions (Fig. 9). Three types: array, patch and adjacent multifunctionality. Func-
tions were located beneath arrays (array multifunctionality), on the
patch area (patch multifunctionality) and adjacent to patches (adjacent
multifunctionality) (Fig. 10). Array and patch multifunctionality allow
for interactivity between functions (e.g. sheep nding shade under ar-
rays) and were identied in 8 out of 11 cases (Fig. 11). Adjacent mul-
tifunctionality was identied in all cases and was often a form of
multiple land use or co-location with little interaction with the solar
infrastructure [31,32]. These ndings are in line with, and further
specify earlier research on solar landscapes; earlier research identied
multifunctionality applied to solar infrastructure and as multiple land
use within the project boundary [36].
Fig. 6. Visibility of the solar infrastructure as observed from road infrastructure closest to the case, the rst line of observation.
Fig. 7. Measures enhancing visibility: lookout in G¨
ansdorf (a), Mühlenfeld (b, picture by Florian Becker) and the Kwekerij (c), and benches near a clear view to the
solar infrastructure in Laarberg (d, picture by Coos van Ginkel) and Sinnegreide (e). All pictures by authors unless otherwise indicated.
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
On average, the cases contained 28,9% adjacent multifunctionality,
19,8% patch multifunctionality and 11,6% array multifunctionality,
totaling to 60,4% (Fig. 11). In seven cases, over 70% of the land surface
was allotted to multifunctionality. In three of these cases (Valentano,
Hemau and Midden-Groningen), this high share is for a large part caused
by harvesting the meadow beneath and between the arrays by or for
livestock. Specically for Midden-Groningen, multifunctionality is ar-
ranged as a sharp spatial distinction between the high-density PV
patches and livestock (array and patch multifunctionality), and
ecological features in the edge (adjacent multifunctionality). The large
share of multifunctionality in the other four cases is explained by a
diverse set of features: wildower elds, recreational amenities and
water retention (the Kwekerij), livestock grazing and water retention
(Laarberg), elds of wildowers and ne grasses (Southill) and an olive
grove and wet ecological corridor (Monreale). The cases with high
shares of array and patch multifunctionality indicate the potential to
increase multifunctionality without adversely affecting land used for
electricity generation. High shares of adjacent multifunctionality were
found in Monreale, Southill, the Kwekerij, Valentano, Laarberg and
Hemau. With adjacent multifunctionality, however, land otherwise
available for electricity generation is used for other functions. This latter
type of multifunctionality therefore reduces the overall land use energy
intensity of the solar landscape [2]. Assessment of multifunctionality. The number of functions and
the land surface allocated to multifunctionality are useful indicators to
compare SPP on multifunctionality, yet they do not assess functions.
Assessment of ecosystem functions and services needs to provide insight
in their effectiveness, management [35] and comparison to the baseline
situation [47]. Such an assessment requires integrated approaches that
make use of a mix of methods and tools on multiple scales of analysis
[3]. Without advancing such assessment methods for solar landscapes,
cases may emerge that bear the promise of multifunctionality, but only
deliver minor provisioning, regulating or cultural benets. Current as-
sessments of SPP often make use of performance indicators based on
installed capacity or electricity generation [64,65]. Using these in-
dicators, most of the cases in this study will be outperformed by SPP that
are optimized for electricity generation. These assessments and their
associated indicators will need to be supplemented by other indicators
that capture multifunctionality.
4.3.3. Temporality
Temporality in the cases was addressed in 8 out of 11 cases by
attention for landscape elements and patterns present in the host land-
scape, active management during operation and maintenance stage and
landscape plans for the decommissioning stage.
In ve cases, landscape elements and patterns that were part of the
former state of the host landscape were included in operation and main-
tenance stage, with the potential to extend into decommissioning stage.
These efforts can result in ‘remnants of the pastand carry symbolic and
historical value [53]. Elements were often vegetation, such as hedge-
rows or trees, but also former military bunkers were preserved (Hemau).
Fig. 8. The number of functions in each case, divided over provisioning, regulating and cultural functions.
Fig. 9. The number of functions compared to the land use energy intensity,
expressed by Land Area Occupation Ratio. 1=G¨
ansdorf; 2=Kwekerij;
3=Valentano; 4=Southill; 5=Hemau; 6=Laarberg; 7=Sinnegreide;
8=Mühlenfeld; 9=Midden-Groningen; 10=Monreale; 11=Southwick.
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
In two cases (G¨
ansdorf and Midden-Groningen) existing parcellation
was explicitly considered to maintain landscape character during the
operation and maintenance stage.
Active management of landscape features during operation and
maintenance stage was identied in four cases (G¨
ansdorf, the Kwekerij,
Southill and Hemau). In these cases, monitoring and evaluation was
organized, and consequently enabled decision-making based on chang-
ing monitoring results and contextual circumstances. A distinctive
example is the Kwekerij, where changing demands by local stakeholders
resulted in the addition of a vegetable garden in a later stage. On the
contrary, other cases indicate a lack of active management and appeared
not to be resilient to changing circumstances. In Monreale for example,
the olive grove adjacent to the solar system is currently in a poor state.
This olive grove was supposed to be used for local olive oil production,
but it seems it was not well embedded in the local socio-economic
context. In Southwick, original plans involved wildower elds, graz-
ing sheep and bat boxes. These plans, partially executed, appear to have
been abandoned following a change in the ownership of the SPP.
Plans for the decommissioning stage were mentioned in six cases,
mostly involving reversibility [4]. Three cases (Southill,
Midden-Groningen and Southwick) plan to reverse the site into the
former state of the landscape, although it is not always clear if this
concerns removal of both solar infrastructure and landscape features. In
ansdorf, rather than decommissioning, the plan is to continue
combining electricity generation with habitat creation and agriculture
by means of agrivoltaïcs. If executed, this plan will result in the recycling
of the existing energy landscape [4]. In the Kwekerij and Monreale,
landscape features in operation and maintenance stage supported the
Fig. 10. a) array multifunctionality in Mühlenfeld (picture by Florian Becker): shade tolerating vegetation and inverters beneath arrays; b) patch multifunctionality
in Laarberg: sheep grazing on the lowered patch area that also functions as water retention area; c) adjacent multifunctionality in G¨
ansdorf: hedgerow and wildower
eld developed next to the PV patch.
Fig. 11. Shares of land surface allotted to array, patch and adjacent multifunctionality.
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
plans for the decommissioning stage. In the Kwekerij, local inhabitants
benet from the park function in operation and maintenance stage, and
a larger park will be available to them once the solar infrastructure will
be dismantled. In Monreale, cultivation of herbs between the arrays is
supposed to increase soil quality for agricultural use in the decom-
missioning stage. Concluding, while in eight cases the temporal char-
acter of the cases was considered, only two cases used landscape features
to enhance future use of the sites, beyond site restoration [59]. Thus, in
most cases use of landscape features in decommissioning stage is not
explicitly considered, which in turn might adversely affect their
continuation [24]. This unclarity of the decommissioning stage has
already been identied for wind energy and can potentially result in
repowering or abandonment of renewable energy technologies [23].
4.3.4. Reections on emergent properties across frontrunner solar
Although most cases pay attention to visibility, multifunctionality
and temporality, the spatial arrangement of each case illustrates varying
degrees of integration between solar infrastructure and landscape fea-
tures. In the Kwekerij, these are entwined to a degree that the case is
neither just a solar power plant nor just a public park: it is a combination
of both. Patches have been congured to allow visitors to walk between
the arrays, height of the arrays has been adjusted to address visibility
concerns of neighboring residents. In G¨
ansdorf however, solar infra-
structure and landscape features are strictly separated: additional
functions are not found within, but next to the PV patches.
Whether landscape features are sustained beyond the decom-
missioning of the solar infrastructure depends on the type of the fea-
tures. Features enhancing landscape character (e.g. Southwick) or
features able to provide a function independent of solar infrastructure in
the future (e.g. the Kwekerij) are likely to be sustained. In Midden-
Groningen, on the contrary, some of the landscape features are unfa-
miliar to the host landscape and their existence will be less certain when
the SPP is decommissioned.
5. Conclusions
This study aimed to contribute to the understanding of solar land-
scapes by examining 11 frontrunner cases across Europe, guided by the
following research question: what are the visual, functional and temporal
properties of frontrunner solar landscapes in Europe?
The examined frontrunner solar landscapes use a combined spatial
arrangement of solar infrastructure and landscape features to address
societal concerns. Solar infrastructure operates on system, patch and
array level and landscape features are categorized as ecological, recre-
ational and educational, agricultural and water management features.
Visibility is reduced in all cases; yet in ve cases visibility is simulta-
neously enhanced in dedicated areas in combination with recreational
amenities. Cases contain between 6 and 14 different functions, although
the share of land allocated to multifunctionality differs greatly between
cases. In addition to electricity generation, habitat creation is identied
in all cases, and in 9 out of 11 cases pollinating, screening and small-
scale agricultural functions are identied. In eight cases the temporal
character is considered in some way, yet only two cases explicitly
introduce landscape features to enhance future use of the sites. Across
the cases, our analysis of spatial properties shows how contemporary
concerns about SPP, such as visual impact, land use competition and the
end-of-life stage are addressed. Next to these empirical ndings, we
draw three main conclusions from this case study.
First, although the cases altogether present a portfolio of measures
responding to societal concerns, the full potential of the three key
properties is yet to be explored. The orientation of PV arrays, for
example, is optimized for maximum electricity generation in all cases.
Alternative array orientation may support maintaining existing land-
scape patterns and, simultaneously, reducing peak load on the electricity
grid. Another example is the presence of similar landscape features
across cases, despite the differences in character of the host landscapes.
Second, despite the additional benets found in the cases, some
(local) trade-offs may still emerge. To illustrate, some of the identied
congurations of PV patches provide space for provisioning, regulating
or cultural functions but can, at the same time, destroy existing land-
scape patterns. Furthermore, a high share of land solely dedicated to
ecosystem functions increases the total land area needed to generate a
set amount of electricity. These examples show the need to assess both
individual properties as well as the SPP as a whole. Where existing
research on additional benets for SPPs is mainly theoretical, the
empirical evidence in this research resulted in properties and initial
indicators to describe, compare and potentially assess additional bene-
ts. Such properties and indicators can become part of environmental
impact assessments, multi-criteria decision analysis and other methods
to asses not only negative, but also positive impacts of SPP. For example,
assessment of enhancing visibility (e.g. through dedicated recreational
areas with clear views on solar infrastructure) may enrich impact as-
sessments that consider visibility as a negative property exclusively. Yet,
other properties related to visual impact, such as frequency of views and
glare still need to be taken into account. Similar, including properties
such as temporality in multi-criteria decision analysis may favor alter-
native proposals of SPP that allow continuation of existing landscape
Third, as individual cases diverge in their attention for certain
properties, further distinctions within the concept ‘solar landscapecan
be made. To illustrate, some cases focus mainly on visibility and only
marginally on multifunctionality. In addition, some cases focus on
provisioning and regulating functions, while others focus on cultural
functions. A clear distinction between the different types of solar land-
scapes may help to conceive solar power plants appropriate to the site-
specic considerations of local stakeholders and society at large.
Credit author contribution statement
Dirk Oudes - Conceptualization, Methodology, Validation, Investi-
gation, Resources, Data curation, Writing - original draft, Writing - re-
view & editing, Visualization, Project administration. Sven Stremke -
Conceptualization, Methodology, Investigation, Writing - review &
editing, Supervision, Funding acquisition.
Declaration of competing interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial
interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to inuence
the work reported in this paper.
The authors are grateful to the experts that helped to identify the
cases, and to Florian Becker and Coos van Ginkel (both Wageningen
University) and Paolo Picchi (Amsterdam Academy of Architecture) for
their assistance in the data collection and analysis. Furthermore, we
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
thank Martine Uyterlinde (Netherlands Environmental Assessment
Agency) and Adri van den Brink (Wageningen University) for reviewing
an earlier version of this paper, and the members of the Dutch National
Consortium ‘Solar energy and Landscape and the Solar Research
Program (Wageningen University) for providing valuable feedback
during presentations of intermediate results. Last, we like to thank the
anonymous reviewers for their useful comments and critique.
Appendix A. Share of existing eye-level vegetation (e.g. forest patches or hedgerows) along the edge of the solar landscapes.
Appendix B. In addition to fencing, three types of measures were applied along the edge of the solar landscapes: removal of existing landscape features, enhancing
existing landscape features and new landscape features.
D. Oudes and S. Stremke
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 145 (2021) 111101
Appendix C. Presence of functions in the cases following the Common International Classication of Ecosystem Services (CICES) [52]
Section Division Code Simple descriptor Absolute
Provisioning (Biotic) Biomass Any crops and fruits grown by humans for food;
food crops
5 45%
Biomass Material from plants, fungi, algae or bacterial
that we can use
2 18%
Biomass Livestock raised in housing and/or grazed
4 36%
Non-aqueous natural abiotic ecosystem outputs Solar power 11 100%
Regulation &
Transformation of biochemical or physical inputs to
ecosystems Natural protection 3 27%
Regulation &
Transformation of biochemical or physical inputs to
ecosystems Screening unsightly things 9 82%
Regulation of physical, chemical, biological conditions Regulating the ows of water in our
6 55%
Regulation of physical, chemical, biological conditions Pollinating our fruit trees and other plants 9 82%
Regulation of physical, chemical, biological conditions Spreading the seeds of wild plants 1 9%
Regulation of physical, chemical, biological conditions Providing habitats for wild plants and animals
that can be useful to us
11 100%
Regulation of physical, chemical, biological conditions Ensuring the organic matter in our soils is
1 9%
Cultural (Biotic) Direct, in-situ and outdoor interactions with living systems
that depend on presence in the environmental setting Using the environment for sport and
recreation; using nature to help stay t
4 36%
Direct, in-situ and outdoor interactions with living systems
that depend on presence in the environmental setting Watching plants and animals where they live;
using nature to destress
5 45%
Direct, in-situ and outdoor interactions with living systems
that depend on presence in the environmental setting Researching nature 3 27%
Direct, in-situ and outdoor interactions with living systems
that depend on presence in the environmental setting Studying nature 5 45%
Direct, in-situ and outdoor interactions with living systems
that depend on presence in the environmental setting The beauty of nature 6 55%
Indirect, remote, often indoor interactions with living
systems that do not require presence in the environmental
setting The things in nature that we think should be
7 64%
Cultural (Abiotic) Indirect, remote, often indoor interactions with physical
systems that do not require presence in the environmental
setting Things in the physical environment that we
think are important to others and future
4 36%
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... Another factor that influences soil parameters and consequently species selection is the previous land use. In addition to previously intensive arable land, solar parks are also built on de-sealed soil and contaminated sites, e.g., covered ash heaps or waste disposal sites [38][39][40]. ...
... In addition, abiotic factors can also influence the growth height of the sown species. Particularly on formerly intensive arable land and contaminated sites (e.g., covered slag heaps or waste disposal sites) on which solar parks are sometimes constructed [38][39][40]92,93], there may be a high soil nutrient surplus, which can lead to above-average plant growth. This problem can be addressed by adapted, more intensive management, which usually results in higher costs and negative effects on biodiversity, especially due to lower attractiveness for pollinators [94]. ...
Full-text available
Photovoltaics is one of the key technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving climate neutrality for Europe by 2050, which has led to the promotion of solar parks. These parks can span up to several hundred hectares, and grassland vegetation is usually created between and under the panels. Establishing species-rich grasslands using native seed mixtures can enhance a variety of ecosystem services, including pollination. We present an overall concept for designing native seed mixtures to promote pollinators, especially wild bees, in solar parks. It takes into account the specific site conditions, the small-scale modified conditions caused by the solar panels, and the requirement to avoid panel shading. We highlight the challenges and constraints resulting from the availability of species on the seed market. Furthermore, we provide an easy-to-use index for determining the value of native seed mixtures for wild bee enhancement and apply it as an example to several mixtures specifically designed for solar parks. The increased availability of regional seed would allow a more thorough consideration of pollinator-relevant traits when composing native seed mixtures, thereby enhancing ecosystem services associated with pollinators such as wild bees.
... Along with these small-scale sources, mini-grid and multi-megawatt-scale PV power stations are implemented to a greater extent for powering industrial and commercial establishments [8,9]. Consequently, large-scale photovoltaic plants have been implemented on plain land, in the desert, or floating plants in reservoirs, lakes, and off the coast [10][11][12]. ...
The development of large-scale, ground-mounted photovoltaic power generation in areas with limited land is extremely difficult, especially in some countries where more than 1,100 people reside per square kilometre. Considering land's utilisation for food production, housing, and industrialisation a priority, floating solar photovoltaic (FSPV) systems, which involve mounting PV cells on a floating device on the surface of a water body, can provide a practical solution for both renewable power generation and the conservation of scarce land. Although some studies emphasise the potential benefits of FSPV, no comprehensive techno-economic and environmental study is reported in the open literature in the context of a country where landmass is nearly impossible to utilise for photovoltaic power generation. Hence, the article focuses on a techno-economic and environmental study of a 50 MW FSPV power plant for a marsh area in an extremely densely populated country using PVsyst simulation tools. The findings of the study show the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of the 50 MW FSPV plant is US$ 0.051/kWh, which is a decent lower compared to US$ 0.087/kWh for fossil fuel-based power plants in the case study nation. Furthermore, the proposed FSPV offers reductions in CO 2 , water evaporation, and biodiversity conservation in marshlands.
... Located at the edge of a small village, local inhabitants use the solar park for community gatherings, children as playground and others for lunchtime strolls. The Kwekerij has become a best-practice and draws visitors from all over the country and abroad (OUDES & STREMKE 2021). Please note that the Power of Landscape book presents many additional case studies that help learning how the global energy transition can be localized. ...
Full-text available
Climate crisis demands decarbonization of our energy supplies. The upscaling of renewable energy is accelerating around the world. Most renewable energy projects fail to realize values other than reducing greenhouse gas emissions and societal support is eroding. Many critics appropriate 'landscape' to oppose, postpone or reallocate climate action. The objective of this paper is to highlight another, often overlooked power of landscape: The power of landscape to enable learning, reflecting, and resolving critical questions regarding climate action. Landscapes, we sustain, deserve ever more attention in the pursuit of timely climate action. We illustrate that the transition to renewables provides the very foundations for new cultural landscapes. This paper draws from a recently published book-The Power of Landscape-which presents our research and design at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture , complemented by essays from renown architects, geographers, sociologists, and historians.
... At the same time, other scholars have begun to argue for improved design of SPPs (e.g. [24][25][26][27][28]). These researchers have proposed a shift from a 'economictechnical efficient model' to an integral design process that considers socio-cultural and environmental values of affected landscape users as well as economic and sustainable technical values. ...
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The current approach to developing renewable energy projects often faces local opposition and has been said to increase injustice. One way of addressing procedural justice is to include local stakeholders in the design process. However, it can be difficult for lay audiences to understand the technical complexities of solar power plants. We built a full-scale prototype to support a participatory design process with local stakeholders and used engaged action research to examine the influence of this prototype on local acceptance in one real-life case in The Netherlands. The prototype helped to break the status quo bias. Furthermore, the study shows that well-designed participatory processes can aid understanding and help provide local stakeholders with possibilities to affect outcomes. Such processes can contribute to the legitimacy of the development of solar power plants and, in this case, increase local support for the development.
... Land use competitions and ecological impacts have been gaining attention in the research discourse, suggesting going beyond technical and economic aspects in energy planning procedures by introducing sustainability concerns [10] and landscape-inclusive strategies [11]. Indeed, recent studies highlight the need to include societal considerations in the processes of REL planning [12][13][14]. ...
Full-text available
The increasing adoption of solar power plants requires the consideration of different aspects involved in the transformation of landscape. In this view, recent studies encourage public engagement and landscape integration strategies in the decision-making process to ensure an accepted and inclusive energy transition. However, there is limited knowledge on how to include landscape considerations in the planning processes, specifically on public perception and values. This work aims to assess five licensed solar farms in the region of Central Macedonia (Greece) based on the opinion of the inhabitants. The paper presents the results of an online and onsite questionnaire administered in different villages around the study area in October 2022. The survey utilized the potential benefits and impacts, as well as siting criteria and spatial configuration strategies, taken from literature to describe public perception and preferences. The methodology consists of three phases: investigation of public perception on solar farms; operationalization of the results to make them spatially explicit; overall suitability of the areas and mitigation strategies. The results illustrate the prioritization of the perceived impacts and benefits of photovoltaic installations and highlight the different levels of suitability of the areas and possible mitigation measures. The proposed approach is complementary to the planning processes taking into account societal considerations.
Full-text available
The United States may produce as much as 45% of its electricity using solar energy technology by 2050, which could require more than 40,000 km2 of land to be converted to large-scale solar energy production facilities. Little is known about how such development may impact animal movement. Here, we use five spatially explicit projections of solar energy development through 2050 to assess the extent to which ground-mounted photovoltaic solar energy expansion in the continental United States may impact land-cover and alter areas important for animal movement. Our results suggest that there could be a substantial overlap between solar energy development and land important for animal movement: across projections, 7-17% of total development is expected to occur on land with high value for movement between large protected areas, while 27-33% of total development is expected to occur on land with high value for climate-change-induced migration. We also found substantial variation in the potential overlap of development and land important for movement at the state level. Solar energy development, and the policies that shape it, may align goals for biodiversity and climate change by incorporating the preservation of animal movement as a consideration in the planning process.
Full-text available
The book investigates various MPPT algorithms, and the optimization of solar energy using machine learning and deep learning. It will serve as an ideal reference text for senior undergraduate, graduate students, and academic researchers in diverse engineering domains including electrical, electronics and communication, computer, and environmental. This book: • Discusses data acquisition by the internet of things for real-time monitoring of solar cells. • Covers artificial neural network techniques, solar collector optimization , and artificial neural network applications in solar heaters, and solar stills. • Details solar analytics, smart centralized control centers, integration of microgrids, and data mining on solar data. • Highlights the concept of asset performance improvement, effective forecasting for energy production, and Low-power wide-area network applications. • Elaborates solar cell design principles, the equivalent circuits of single and two diode models, measuring idealist factors, and importance of series and shunt resistances. The text elaborates solar cell design principles, the equivalent circuit of single diode model, the equivalent circuit of two diode model, measuring idealist factor, and importance of series and shunt resistances. It further discusses perturb and observe technique, modified P&O method, incremen-tal conductance method, sliding control method, genetic algorithms, and neuro-fuzzy methodologies. It will serve as an ideal reference text for senior undergraduate, graduate students, and academic researchers in diverse engineering domains including electrical, electronics and communication, computer , and environmental.
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New renewable energy infrastructure is essential to deliver net zero policies in response to climate change, but a lack of community acceptance is a potential barrier. It is therefore important to understand what shapes community acceptance and identify policy responses. This paper presents a case study of community acceptance of a large-scale solar farm in the UK, the first to be classified as 'nationally significant' infrastructure. In doing so, it provides the first empirical study of community acceptance of a large-scale solar farm in a developed country context, building on existing studies which use hypothetical approaches such as choice experiments, or surveys which measure general attitudes rather than responses to specific developments. The paper uses mixed methods (quantitative content analysis of online comments on the planning proposal; qualitative semi-structured interviews with local residents and key stakeholders; and participant observation) to identify determinants shaping community acceptance of large-scale solar farms. We discover 28 determinants which we group into eight categories: aesthetic, environmental, economic, project details, temporal, social, construction and process. We argue that these findings help to reveal broader issues underlying community acceptance of solar farms and other renewable energy infrastructure: 'green-on-green' tensions; issues of scale and place attachment; policy, process and justice. We also contribute a novel understanding of community acceptance as 'relational', by which we mean it is informed by the deployment of other energy technologies and the wider energy policy landscape, not just the specific project. We conclude with recommendations for how policymakers can respond to the issues identified by this article.
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Landscape impacts associated with aesthetics have been a persistent cause of opposition against renewable energy projects. However, the current uncertainty over the spatial extents and the rationality of reported impacts impedes the development of optimal strategies for their mitigation. In this paper, a typology of landscape impacts is formed for hydroelectric, wind and solar energy through the review of three metrics that have been used extensively for impact-assessment: land use, visibility and public perception. Additionally, a generic landscape-impact ranking is formed, based on data from realized projects, demonstrating that hydroelectric energy has been the least impactful to landscapes per unit energy generation, followed by solar and wind energy, respectively. More importantly, the analysis highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each technology, in a landscape impact context, and demonstrates that, depending on landscape attributes, any technology can potentially be the least impactful. Finally, a holistic approach is proposed for future research and policy for the integration of renewable energy to landscapes, introducing the maximum utilization of the advantages of each technology as an additional strategy in an effort to expand beyond the mitigation of negative impacts.
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Despite its ostensible future orientation, research on land use planning has given relatively little consideration to temporality, either empirically or conceptually. The need for analytical advances becomes clear when considering the treatment of 'end-of-life' issues for renewable energy facilities like onshore wind. Expanding renewables is central to sustainable energy futures yet land use regulation often treats consents as 'temporary', raising questions about how the trajectories of energy transition are maintained into the future. In the first significant analysis of these issues, this paper presents evidence from the UK case where the majority of wind farms are commercially owned. It first examines 'the problem'-the extent to which UK wind energy capacity is nearing 'end-of-life'. Second, using insights from Foucauldian perspectives on problematisation, it examines how and how far national governments are seeking to influence decisions about three critical issues: (i) repowering, (ii) temporary consents and consent renewal, and (iii) decommissioning and removal. The research shows government actions playing catch up and intervening selectively, only partially shaping the multiplicity of potential outcomes. One explanatory factor is attitudes towards wind energy expansion, with governments varying in the extent to which they seek to maintain wind energy projects into the future or wind energy spaces, and/or renegotiate the terms of development (e.g. to add new social concerns). Limited attention to decommissioning is a surprising omission across the board.
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The transition to renewable energy is a powerful driver for large-scale landscape transformation. Environmental design is increasingly engaged in this transition, but little is known about purposefully designed renewable energy landscapes. To improve the design of large-scale energy landscapes we reviewed the literature on three innovative large-scale landscape transformations: Room for the River Nijmegen-Lent (The Netherlands), Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (UK) and Freshkills Park (USA). We analysed 61 papers on landscape quality and the role of design, governments and participation. Concerning landscape quality, literature reports on functionality and certain aspects of experience rather than firmness (future values) of the transformation. While designers played an important role in large-scale landscape transformations, local governments seem not to be in control of the decision-making and participation was limited. The three cases illustrate how executed projects influence the discourse on landscape transformation and provide valuable insights for the design of renewable energy landscapes.
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The number of ground-mounted solar parks is increasing across the world in response to energy decarbonisation. Solar parks offer an opportunity to deliver ecosystem co-benefits but there is also a risk that their development and operation may be detrimental to ecosystems. Consequently, we created the Solar Park Impacts on Ecosystem Services (SPIES) decision-support tool (DST) to provide evidence-based insight on the impacts of different solar park management practices on ecosystem services. The SPIES DST is underpinned by 704 pieces of evidence from 457 peer-reviewed academic journal articles that assess the impacts of land management on ecosystem services, collated through a systematic review. Application to two operational solar parks evidences the commercial relevance of the SPIES DST and its potential to enable those responsible for designing and managing solar parks to maximise the ecosystem co-benefits and minimise detrimental effects. Further, evaluation using data from nine solar parks across the south of England demonstrates the validity of the DST outcomes. With the increasing land take for renewable energy infrastructure, DSTs, such as SPIES, that promote the co-delivery of other ecosystem benefits can help to ensure that the energy transition does not swap climate change for local scale ecosystem degradation, and potentially prompts improvements in ecosystem health.
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The strategic engineering of solar energy technologies—from individual rooftop modules to large solar energy power plants—can confer significant synergistic outcomes across industrial and ecological boundaries. Here, we propose techno–ecological synergy (TES), a framework for engineering mutually beneficial relationships between technological and ecological systems, as an approach to augment the sustainability of solar energy across a diverse suite of recipient environments, including land, food, water, and built-up systems. We provide a conceptual model and framework to describe 16 TESs of solar energy and characterize 20 potential techno–ecological synergistic outcomes of their use. For each solar energy TES, we also introduce metrics and illustrative assessments to demonstrate techno–ecological potential across multiple dimensions. The numerous applications of TES to solar energy technologies are unique among energy systems and represent a powerful frontier in sustainable engineering to minimize unintended consequences on nature associated with a rapid energy transition.
While renewable energy sources enjoy high public support, projects are rarely implemented without opposition. The term energy landscapes indicates that landscape change is amongst the most frequent issues. This study researched lay people’s perceptions of landscapes changed by solar power plants. The first objective was to discover how likely solar power plants are to be noticed in the landscape. The second objective was to determine the associations observers make when spotting a solar power plant. The data was collected by participatory photography and focus groups. Participants visited six solar power plants. The results show that they are highly noticeable and contentious objects. Participants who understood the landscape as a rural idyll disapproved of solar power plants, while for those who perceived the landscape through a utilitarian narrative, the (mis)fit of the solar power plant depended on its relation to the surrounding landscape structure. Landscape degradation was contrasted with low-carbon energy and developmental benefits. The results provide evidence on the interdependence of visual and non-visual factors and suggest improvements in planning and design of solar power plants. While the method gives a rich in-depth insight into landscape perception, it is also context dependent and needs further research to obtain more generalisable results.
See-through, light-through, and color modules are developed for large-area (1.3 m × 1.1 m) tandem amorphous/microcrystalline silicon thin-film solar modules for building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) applications. Key technologies for achieving these BIPV functionalities are developed and introduced into the 60 MW production line. These key technologies include post-scribing passivation of nano-size thin-films, large-area film uniformity, front reflective layers, 4-step laser scribing, transverse laser scribing, and peripheral pen-type junction boxes. This paper demonstrates and discusses the potential and versatility of these silicon thin-film modules in BIPV applications. It also shows that the BIPV modules’ specifications and performance mainly depend on the key technologies and their associated manufacturing processes in the production line. The electrical and optical performances of the BIPV modules are presented and important issues about their use in BIPV applications are also discussed.
Reference rules-of-thumb advise equator-facing orientations and slopes near the site's latitude as the optimal conditions for photovoltaic (PV) systems to maximize annual solar electricity production. However, if the electricity consumption profile is considered, this layout will most likely increase net load variance on the electricity grid at sunrise and sunset, which ought to be avoided. Making use of a variety of orientations and inclinations can help to minimize this impact, especially in cities where plentiful area of diversely oriented façades and rooftops is particularly relevant for broadening the peak of PV production throughout the day. Providing electricity not only around solar noon but also in the morning and late afternoon, when demand from residential buildings increases, helps to maximize self-consumption/-sufficiency and reduces costs for end-users and utilities. Until recently, due to high installation costs, there was little interest in this non-optimal PV systems configurations. In the last five years, however, the paradigm started to shift, triggered by the growing interest from municipalities that seek energy transition through currently more affordable PV systems and, on the other hand, by the duck-curve phenomena reported in pioneering "solar cities". This paper reviews studies that address the use of non-optimal azimuths and tilts to better match utility-and distributed-scale demand and supply.