Since the future of a sustainable energy system lies in the use of space – space needed for the generation of renewable energy – our approach to landscapes is decisive. The key research question addressed in the NRGlab is how to design, plan, and develop sustainable landscapes. Another main objective is to facilitate knowledge exchange and discussion between the various disciplines and domains dealing with sustainable energy transition. Many issues are being studied concurrently but independently from one another, while a number of core aspects that deserve particular attention have escaped national and institutional research agendas.

Core research interests NRGlab: Concepts and design principles; planning and design methods; existing energy landscapes; evolution of energy landscapes; urban metabolism; modeling/mapping of energy landscapes; empirical research on energy landscapes.

PURPLE = PhD research | GREY = case study | BLACK = other studies
Move timeline using left mouse button. Visit this timeline to see all research projects


History of Dutch Energy Landscapes (2016-2017)
The notion of ‘energy landscape’ receives more and more attention in both design practice and academia. But what exactly is an energy landscape? Can we identify different types of energy landscapes? How have they evolved through time, and what does this mean for designing and planning landscapes for renewable energies? Are we creating (or should we create) new cultural landscapes? By analysing what is already written on the topic of energy landscapes, insight upon its definition, its existence and its history is gained. This research project, which is commissioned by the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE), aims to examine the notion of ‘energy landscape’ and other closely related terms. It intends to unravel the history of Dutch energy landscapes with a focus on the spatial dimension of past energy transitions. The results of the research that is being conducted by Jolanda de Jong and Sven Stremke will be presented in a scientific peer-reviewed article.

Koekkoek Landschap met molen bij Vreeland
Figure: Landscape with wind mill near Vreeland by J.H.B. Koekkoek

Urban Water & Energy flows for design of Green/Blue Infrastructure: PhD study Ilse Voskamp (2015-19)
The PhD research of Ilse Voskamp builds upon the AMS Urban Pulse and is co-supervised by Sven Stremke of the Landscape Architecture Chair Group, Wageningen UR. The other supervisors involved are Jan Vreeburg and Huub Rijnaarts (promotor) of the sub-department of Environmental Technology, Wageningen UR. In this PhD research, a model will be developed that can provide insight in a cities resource flows, to inform resource efficient design of our cities. In order to plan and design resource efficient cities, a sound understanding of urban resource flows is essential (Voskamp et al., 2016). One of the approaches used to analyse resource flows in cities is urban metabolism. Urban metabolism refers to the exchange processes whereby cities transform raw materials, energy, and water into the built environment, human biomass, and waste (Decker et al., 2000). It is argued that urban metabolism analyses can contribute to sustainable urban planning and design, but thus far this application remains limited (Kennedy et al., 2011). Read more.

SAMSUNG CSCFigure: Green-blue infrastructure at the Park 20|20 in Hoofddorp, The Netherlands (Voskamp, 2016).

Application of energy conscious design principles in the planning and design of sustainable energy landscapes: PhD study Roberta Pistoni (2015-18)
This PhD research aims to examine the relations between energy conscious design and landscape design and to understand which principles and strategies are currently applied in planning and design practice. The skills and roles of landscape architecture (as discipline) and landscape design (as activity) are also investigated. The research considers France and the Netherlands as case studies; nations that have in their political agenda strategies in order to transit from fossil fuels towards renewable and carbon-free sources. Furthermore, the two nations have an important and long lasting tradition in landscape architecture, but with different roles and involvement in energy transition processes. Read more.
Figure: Renewable Energy Landscape in the Po Valley, Italy (Pistoni, 2016).

URBAN PULSE: Understanding the dynamics of resource flows in Amsterdam (2014-2015)
To reduce the environmental impact of cities and to safeguard access to energy, water, food and raw materials, a transition towards a circular urban metabolism is advocated by researchers and governments worldwide. The aim of the URBAN PULSE project is to inform this transition by understanding spatial and temporal dynamics of resource flows in the city of Amsterdam: the pulse of the city. Read more.

Sankey diagram current 05022015 compact curved hatched
Figure: Preliminary SANKEY diagram of the Amsterdam energy system (Van Heeswijk and Choi, 2015).

PALET: Parkstad Limburg Energie Transitie (2013-2015)
The city region of Parkstad Limburg in the South of The Netherlands commissioned this project in order to instigate the transformation from a region relying almost entirely on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The PArkstad Limburg Energy Transition (PALET) project integrates two research tracks: the analysis of potentials for energy savings performed by NEBER/Zuyd Hogeschool and the analysis of potentials for renewable energy generation performed by the NRGlab/Wageningen University. The office of H+N+S Landscape Architects facilitated the integration of the research and the dissemination of the results. Read more

PALET diagram Figure: Energy savings and renewable energy potentials in the Parkstad Limburg region (Delheij et al. 2014).

ZonB: Solar Fields in Noord-Brabant (2014)
In July 2014, the NRGlab finalized and presented the ZonB research project to the Province of Noord-Brabant. The Province had asked us to develop a spatial framework to inform the development of large PV parks (or solar field). In this project, the spatial integration of solar fields was tested and discussed for four different landscape types in Noord-Brabant. The research was structured along three principal questions: WHAT? WHERE? and HOW? A synthesis of the project report can be found here.

Bergstra, E.; Stremke, S. (2014) Spatial Framework to Inform the Development of Photovoltaic Parks. In Photovoltaics, Forms and Landscapes, edited by A.Scagnamiglio, pp. 63–74. European Commission: Brussels.

Figure: Map of the province of Noord-Brabant with major infrastructure and selected landscape types ZonB.


Interview series Dutch Landscape Architects and Energy Landscape Design (2013)
In May and June 2013, Silvia Minichino and Renée de Waal organise a series of interviews with Dutch landscape architects working on planning and design of sustainable energy landscapes. The landscape architects are not only asked to talk about their work but also to draw their answers. Silvia will use the results of this inquiry in a comparative study between the Netherlands and Italy. Renée will use the results to position the evaluation of Dutch regional planning and design proposals for sustainable energy landscapes in the Eo Wijers contest in a broader context.

Landscape and renewable energy: PhD study Silvia Minichino (2011-2014)
Both, landscape and renewable energy are powerful and controversial concepts in conceiving transformations in society and built environment. In order to investigate the relationship between landscape and renewable energy, this research project reflects about the link between landscape architecture and renewable energy policy in designing sustainable energy landscapes. Accordingly, the main research statements are that landscape architecture, as discipline, can contribute to the sustainable implementation of renewable energy technologies (De von Back, 2010; Stremke and Van den Dobbelsteen, 2013), and that design is the core of landscape architecture discipline (Njhuis & Bobbink, 2012; Koh, 2013). This research is performed by Silvia Minichino, Landscape Architects and PhD researcher from Florence University who has been visting the NRGlab at Wageningen University from January till July 2013. Read more


Shaping sustainable energy landscapes – A narrative approach: PhD study Renée de Waal (2010-2018)
This PhD research project studies (A) the niche for landscape architecture in energy transition, (B) design approaches adopted by landscape architects working on energy transition, and (C) if and how a narrative approach can help designing meaningful sustainable energy landscapes. For the last question, the entries for the 9th Eo Wijers regional design competition are used to derive common narratives that occur in planning and design of sustainable energy landscapes and to see how designers use these to convey meaning and expression. The research is performed by Renée de Waal, PhD researcher at the Landscape Architecture group at Wageningen University. Read more

De Waal, R.; Stremke, S. (2014) Energy transition: Missed opportunities and emerging challenges for landscape planning and designing, Sustainability, 6(7), 4386-4415, DOI: 10.3390/su6074386
De Waal, R.; Stremke, S.; Van Hoorn, A.; Duchhart, I.; Van den Brink, A.(2015). Incorporating renewable energy science in regional landscape design: Results from a competition in The Netherlands, Sustainability (Special Issue: Landscape and Sustainability) 7(5), 4806-4828, DOI: 10.3390/su7054806


Samsø Sustainability Assessment (2012-2013)
The basic idea behind the NDOMATES project is to develop “tools” to test the sustainability level of a society. The tools for (a) work energy accounting and (b) carbon modeling are developed to assist any person interested in evaluating the sustainability level of a particular territory. This is done in a manner that also allows pointing out the factors that quantitatively speaking are the major reasons for the low/high degree of sustainability of a territory. The project is run by Søren Nors Nielsen/Sven Erik Jørgensen from Copenhagen University and Søren Hermansen/Birgit Holmboe from the Samsø Energy Academy. Sven Stremke is member of the project reference group and contributes to the project from Wageningen and when visiting Denmark twice a year. The project is supported by the Villum Fund.

Jørgensen, Sven Erik (2012). Employing Exergy and Carbon Models to Determine the Sustainability of Alternative Energy Landscapes. In Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning and Development, edited by S.Stremke and A.van den Dobbelsteen. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis.

Figure: Photograph of the Samsø Energy Academy, the host of the NDOMATES research project


Eo Wijers Regional Design Competition: Plan Analysis (2012)
The Eo Wijers foundation (in Dutch: de Eo Wijers-stichting) is an independent network contributing to spatial quality of the Dutch landscape on the supra-local scale. The foundation supports private and public commissioners in concrete projects and aims to strengthen the role of design and designers in spatial processes. The Eo Wijers competition, organised every second/ third year, is the most prestigious competition for regional design in the Netherland. Each edition, the entries of the competition are analysed by a university or some other research institution. In the 9th edition (2011-2012), sustainable energy was one of the core themes and WUR was asked to perform the analysis. The WUR team consisted of Annet Kempenaar, Renée de Waal and Adri van den Brink. The research report can be accessed here (in Dutch).

De Waal, R.; Stremke, S.; Van Hoorn, A.; Duchhart, I.; Van den Brink, A.(2015). Incorporating renewable energy science in regional landscape design: Results from a competition in The Netherlands, Sustainability (Special Issue: Landscape and Sustainability) 7(5), 4806-4828, DOI: 10.3390/su7054806
Kempenaar, J.; De Waal, R.M.; Van den Brink, A. (2012). Nieuwe energie voor de Veenkoloniën, op zoek naar regionale comfortzones: Plananalyse, Deventer: Eo Wijerststichting, 51 p.
Figure: Array of posters submitted to the design competition during plan analysis in Wageningen

Concepts from Ecology and Thermodynamics (2006-2007)
In 2005, the first contacts were established between SenterNovem (now Agency NL) and the chair group Landscape Architecture/Wageningen University. After a period of intensive discussion, the four-year SREX research project was granted by SenterNovem. SREX stands for Synergies between Regional Planning and Exergy. This project on the implications of energy transition to planning and design of the larger physical environment was conducted in close cooperation with the TU Delft, RU Groningen, the Hogeschool Zuyd and TNO. One initial part of the project – the study of energy-related concepts in ecology and thermodynamics – was conducted by Sven Stremke. His research project resulted in the following scientific papers:

Stremke, S.; Koh, J. (2011). Integration of ecological and thermodynamic concepts in the design of sustainable energy landscapes. Landscape Journal, 30(2), 194-213.

Stremke, S.; Van den Dobbelsteen, A.; Koh, J. (2011). Exergy landscapes: Exploration of second-law thinking towards sustainable landscape design. International Journal of Exergy, 8(2), 148–174.

Stremke, S.; Koh, J. (2010). Ecological concepts and strategies with relevance to energy-conscious spatial planning and design. Environment and Planning B, 37(3), 518-532.

Figure: From descriptive concepts to design: Sources and sinks (left) and optimum system size (right)