Solar Research: MSc theses

Solar Research: MSc theses

Ecosystem services and solar landscapes

'Designing a multifunctional solar landscape near the Millingerwaard by deploying ecosystem services', Tine Lambert, 2022

The urgency of energy transition often leads to solutions that do not relate to the existing landscape, putting ecosystems under pressure. The challenge is to ensure that the implementation of renewable energy does not adversely affect ecosystem services, but instead improves them. This master’s thesis investigated how a multifunctional solar landscape near the Millingerwaard in the municipality of Berg and Dal (NL) can improve spatial quality through the deployment of the concept of ecosystem services. First, 16 spatial guidelines were obtained from the literature. Current ecosystem services in the area were analyzed, resulting in a map that shows the trade-offs, synergies and hotspots between ecosystem services and energy generation. Next, expert surveys were used to assess and value the spatial quality of various function combinations with PV. All findings were incorporated into a design which shows that a multifunctional solar landscape can bring about positive changes for spatial quality. The use of the different methods stimulates designing sustainable projects that connect people, energy and biodiversity, based on the synergy of different ecosystem services.

Energy on the Edge

'Building smart strategies for the uncertainties of energy and housing development on the edge of Nijmegen', Tim Kisner, 2022

Integration of energy transition with other societal goals is slowly becoming a more widespread approach. In recent years, combinations of energy with agriculture, nature and infrastructure have been proposed regularly. The combination of energy and these functions often implies a focus on the open landscape: outside the city, far from where the energy is consumed. This regularly leads to opposition. To spare these landscapes, opponents often suggest to ‘use every roof’ for solar energy generation. Although it is arguable whether this will satisfy the energy demand of the entire nation, locating energy generation near the user seems tangible and fair. To investigate the opportunities of bringing production and consumption together, this master thesis investigated the true integration of energy and housing development. An ‘Energy on the Edge’ approach is developed, reaching for integration beyond mere utilizing of roof space. The approach is employed to study synergies between energy and housing development at the western city edge of Nijmegen. Here, electricity production is used to stimulate housing development while coping with future uncertainties regarding both functions. Instead of ‘outsourcing’ energy development to the countryside, it is brought into the city. This master thesis establishes a new concept for living with renewable energy: Living in the Power Plant. The concept utilizes energy to improve urban landscape quality - a promising approach to address opposition to conventional, often monofunctional interventions for energy transition in our rural landscapes.


'Photo Forestry - Exploring design principles for multifunctional carbon mitigation landscape development', Sam van den Oetelaar, 2022

Afforestation is becoming politically popular to boost biological carbon sequestration to reduce climate change effects. Similarly, the use of solar panels is also getting popular. In densely built and planned countries, multifunctionality of the landscape is a significant factor for the spatial quality of the landscape. Therefore, with an afforestation challenge that has large spatial implications, there is a need for proper forest design for climate, nature and human activities. This master examines the potential synergies between silviculture and renewable energy production. The research consists of two parts: [1] research for design (RFD) and [2] research through designing (RTD). RFD yielded 11 design considerations covering carbon sequestration, forest health, recreation and Forestvoltaics (FV) - a promising function combination between photovoltaic energy production and forest development. RTD yielded a landscape design in which an FV system is integrated in a multifunctional carbon mitigation landscape. Four general design principles are defined; they expand the knowledge base on designing multifunctional carbon mitigation landscapes. It is concluded that the FV system is suitable for creating synergies. However, the proposed concept is novel and conceptual, and additional studies are required to examine its full potential.

Empowering energy estates

'Empowering Energy Estates: A new estate as a means for sustainable energy in Wijhe, Overijssel' Joost Andréa, 2021

In order to realign and better embed renewable energy technologies in the landscape, inspiration is found with the estate (landgoed), as it is an integrative production landscape that unifies agricultural, cultural-historical, recreational, and ecological values. In the last decade several (suggestive) designs were made for ‘energy estates’ (energielandgoederen) in the Dutch landscape. Although a promising concept, the elaboration into design guidelines for specific landscape types is still lacking. This thesis has the objective to develop design guidelines for a sustainable energy estate in the landscape context of West Overijssel. It builds upon the existing knowledge of sustainable energy landscape design as well as the activation of the design knowledge embedded in the historical estate type that is found in the region. By a comparative case study, thirteen essential spatial characteristics of the this estate type were identified. The final design illustrates that it is indeed possible to employ the estate as a means for designing sustainable energy landscapes and that the estate type characteristics possess enough flexibility to adjust them to the contemporary program. 


'Solarchipelago: Designing energy transition in the IJmeer along ecosystem change' David de Boer, 2020

Climate change mitigation calls for a transition towards more sustainable energy sources. However, allocating the space for renewable energy technologies like PV systems in complex and dense metropolitan regions is no easy task. This is the case for the IJmeer between Amsterdam and Almere as well. The IJmeer is also an ecosystem under pressure. The objective of this research is to design an energy transition in the IJmeer that aligns with the way that ecosystems change, such as through the process of succession. A method of research through designing is used to come to useful design principles and guidelines. A design for the IJmeer was created using a modular approach. Two modules are presented that combine both renewable energy generation as well providing an infrastructure for succession to occur. Multiple stages of succession simultaneously present in these modules allow for more habitat diversity for flora and fauna. The modules performance is based on constant working principles but include variables as well to provide different system responses. The modules variables and composition can adapt to the characteristics of multiple areas of the IJmeer, while also supporting other metropolitan functions like infrastructure and urban expansion while providing renewable energy. The resulting design guidelines were evaluated together with the principles in the conclusion.

Not just another solar field

'Not just another solar field: A multifunctional EnergyGarden for Mastwijk, the Netherlands' Florian Becker, 2020

By 2030, the regional energy strategy (RES) U16 Regio around Utrecht demands to provide 3.6TWh of renewable electricity. In more concrete terms, this means a surface of 3,600 hectares of solar fields that are arising in the landscape within the next nine years. Though this goal might not be realistic, even the appearing of a single hectare of solar field in the landscape should not go without careful planning anymore. Plenty of research has demonstrated that solar fields can host many additional functions without decreasing their productivity. Especially in densely populated regions like the RES U16, scarce surfaces should not simply be allocated to single function land uses. This master thesis builds upon existing knowledge on multifunctional solar fields to identify a set of design guidelines. These are combined with guidelines of garden design to inform the recent concept of EnergyGardens. After forming a set of design guidelines, a fraction of them is tested in a design for an EnergyGarden of Mastwijk in the province of Utrecht. The EnergyGarden Mastwijk is a real project, which is currently developed and planned to be implemented in 2022.

The bright side of solar energy

'The bright side of solar energy: How solar energy can be used as a tool to improve landscapes,' Coos van Ginkel, december 2019

It is estimated that roughly 30,000 hectares of solar fields will be required on land in the Netherlands by 2050. Landscape experts urge that this energy transition should not harm the existing landscape but rather be used to improve spatial quality. The objective of this project was to explore how an integral design for a 1,500ha multifunctional solar landscape in the Northwest Haarlemmermeer can improve the spatial quality of the region.

Eco solar corridor

'Eco solar corridor: Discovering the symbiotic strength of utility-scale solar energy systems and ecological networks in Brummen, the Netherlands,' Dominik Kriska, december 2019

While the need for utility-scale solar energy systems in landscapes is rising to reach the national climate goals, the rivalry with agriculture and the development of nature is increasing too. The combination of solar panels and agriculture was already tested in several projects, however the possible combination of solar energy with ecological networks has not been researched in depth yet. The objective of this research was to explore potential synergies arising from the implementation of solar fields in a gap of an ecological networks at Brummen, the Netherlands.

Circular urban energy park

'Circular urban energy park: Transformation of the Hemwegcentrale,' Yingzi Wang, augustus 2019

According to the recommendations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Netherlands need to achieve an 95% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2040 compared to 1990. One of the measures that are taken is the closure of powerplants running on fossil fuels, like the Hemwegcentrale in the harbour of Amsterdam. This project explored the potentials of the Hemwegcentrale area as a sustainable urban energy landscape, in the complex context of a dynamic urban development in the next two decades.

Perceiving without grieving

'Perceiving without grieving: shaping solar energy for an energy neutral Zeeburgereiland (Amsterdam),' Tom van Heeswijk, March 2016

Amsterdam decided that all new construction projects, from 2015 on, must be energy neutral by avoiding fossil fuels in building-related energy consumption, while increasing the energy efficiency. The neighbourhood Zeeburgereiland in Amsterdam is planned as a dynamic and attractive island for dwelling and recreation, which aims to be energy-neutral by promoting renewable energies. This thesis investigated which physical and psychological attributes influence people’s liking and disliking of renewable energy, consequently formulating implications for design that could account for public preference.