Next generation solar power plants? A comparative analysis of frontrunner solar landscapes in Europe

Oudes, H.H.; Stremke, S.


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.