Exploring New Landscapes of Energies (conceptual framework of ENGELA project)

Energy landscape is a term originally used in physics or biophysics but recently it has got a new meaning in the scope of landscape ecology and geography. Energy landscape can be defined as a landscape whose image and herewith the functions (natural, productive, residential, recreational, cultural, etc.) have been significantly affected by the energetic industry. Most frequently it was cited in relation to wind energy development (Möller, 2009, Nadai and Van der Horst, 2010), though it may be used in context of all energetic branches having a surface expansion (Zerta, et al. 2008).

In connection with growing concerns over global climate changes, future energy sustainability and energy security the obligations to increase a share of energy production from the renewable energy sources (RES) has been officially ratified in most of the countries in Europe and other continents. The exploitation of RES turned out to be even bigger challenge in disputes after the Fukushima nuclear accident (Schneider et al., 2011). However, the development of renewables still raises social controversies on regional and local levels and the rate of implementation of projects varies significantly according to specific technologies, according to different countries and/or regions within one country (e.g. Frantál and Kunc, 2010).

On one hand the projects of wind farms, photovoltaic power plants, energy crop production, biomass incinerator plants, and other innovation technologies became effective means of officially declared support for “clean” energy, they are objects of entrepreneurial interest of investors and developers, a potential source of income for communities involved, and an alternative way of land-use and earnings for multifunctional farmers. On the other hand objectors regard those causers of the intrusion of local landscape character and wildlife, a degradation of the arable land and a green-lobby business being not able to compete without subventions.

Renewable energy sources are regarded as spatially dispersed and difficult to collect, thus requiring substantial land resources in comparison to conventional energy sources; and they are mostly projected to rural areas hitherto being not impacted by industrial developments (a new unique trend seems to be the turning of post-industrial or post-mining brownfields into “brightfields” – see e.g. Parnes, 2011 or Klusáček et al., 2011). The issue of balancing the real and perceived advantages and disadvantages of projects, considering a global climate aspect, national energy strategies, regional development policies and local community profits on one hand, and stressing the significance of nature and landscape protection, calling for a traditional productive farming, and preservation of local cultural identity on the other hand often brings forward political and social conflicts rising from different conceptions of land-use (Brown and Perkins, 1992, Wester-Huber, 2004, Scheffran and Singer, 2004, Devine-Wright 2009, etc.). As the RES projects grew in frequency and scale, new forms of local oppositions emerged, and the coal and nuclear power plants are not anymore the only energy facilities people do not want built in their backyards.

Generally, the common perception is that most land-use conflicts are the result of two dissimilar or incompatible land uses. In fact, the root cause of conflict is when a land use or a project is incompatible with the views, expectations and values of the people living, working or recreating in an area (cf. Learmonth et al., 2007). These values include intrinsic value of the environment, protection of wildlife, the right to use and enjoy land, personal and community health, personal responsibility, recognition and protection of indigenous and non indigenous cultural heritage, etc. (ibid). In consequence, land use conflicts may result in a variety of undesirable social, economic, environmental and cultural impacts (e.g. negative effects on the quality of life of individuals, breakdown in communities, additional demands on government services, increased demands on rural industries, degradation of the environment, loss of local identity, etc.). Thus exploring and managing land-use conflicts before they become negative impacts on communities should be desirable.

It is presumed that most of land-use conflicts - specifically the ones concerning environmentally sensitive energy development projects - have more complex, contextual, political-institutional and social-psychological backgrounds and that the local opposition to projects can not be explained just by simplistic NIMBY theory (see e.g. Wolsink, 2000, 2007, Devine-Wright, 2009, 2010, Van der Horst, 2007, etc.).

The fundamental assumptions that have initiated to propose a new project called Energy Landscapes: Innovation, Development and Internationalization of Research (ENGELA)”, are as follows:

  • The process of transformation to new energy landscapes which will be characterized by spatial dominance of the renewable energy production implicates potential land-use conflicts;
  • Land-use conflicts are not just an issue and a target of technology improvement, economic appraisal and expert (or political) landscape planning but they have more structural, contextual, political-institutional and socially constructed nature;
  • Land-use conflicts can result in a variety of undesirable social, economic, environmental and cultural impacts;
  • New deliberative, interdisciplinary and integrated approaches are needed to manage the required transformation process and to create a vision for change across publics and different stakeholder groups, sectoral and administrative boundaries, which constitute the scope of landscape planning and decision making process;
  • It is needed to set up a knowledge base to help to know the social nature of land-use conflicts that rise against background of the RES deployment at local and regional levels, and to provide theoretical-methodological tools for their identification, prevention and managing.


Brown, B., & Perkins, D. D. (1992): Disruptions to place attachment. In I. Altman, & S. Low (eds.): Place attachment (pp. 279–304). New York: Plenum.

Devine-Wright, P. (2009): Rethinking NIMBYism: the role of place attachment and place identity in explaining place-protective action. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 19:  426-441.

Devine-Wright, P., Howes, Y (2010): Disruption to place attachment and the protection of restorative environments: A wind energy study. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30: 271–280.

Frantál, B., Kunc, J. (2010): Factors of the uneven regional development of wind energy projects       (a case of the Czech Republic). Geografický Časopis/Geographical Journal, 62 (3): 183-201.

Klusáček, P., Kunc, J., Nováková, E. (2011):Potential of the brownfields sites for renewable energy development – case study of the South Moravian Region (Czech Republic). In. Frantál, B. (ed.): Exploring New Landscapes of Energies. Proccedings of the Extended Abstract from the Conference, CONGEO´2011, Brno: Institute of Geonics.

Learmonth, R., Whitehead, E., Boyd, B., Fletcher, S. (2007): Living and working in Rural Areas: A Handbook for managing land use conflict issues on the NSW North Coast. Wollongbar: New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. 124 pp

Möller, B. (2010): Spatial analyses of emerging and fading wind energy landscapes in Denmark. Land Use Policy, 27 (2): 233-241.

Nadai A., Van der Horst, D.  (2010): Landscapes of Energies. Landscape Research, 35(2): 143-155.

Parnes, S. (2011): Brightfields Development: Identifying, Financing and Developing Renewable Energy Projects on Brownfield Sites. Presentation at the Brownfields ´2011 Conference, Philadelphia, April 3-5, 2011, URL: http://www.brownfields2011.org>

Scheffran, J., C. Singer (2004): Energy and Security – From Conflict to Cooperation, INESAP Information Bulletin, 24: 65-70.

Schneider, M., Froggatt, A., Thomas, S. (2011): Nuclear Power in a Post-Fukushima World. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2010–2011. Washington: Worldwatch Institute, 81 pp.

Van der Horst, D. (2007). NIMBY or not? Exploring the relevance of location and the politics of voiced opinions in renewable energy sitting controversies. Energy Policy, 35 (5): 2705-2714.

Wester-Huber, M. (2004): Underlying concerns in land-use conflicts: The role of place identity in risk perception. Environmental Science and Policy, 7: 109–116.

Wolsink, M. (2000). Wind power and the NIMBY-myth: institutional capacity and the limited significance of public support. Renewable Energy, 21 (1): 49-64.

Wolsink, M. (2007). Wind Power implementation: The nature of public attitudes: Equity and fairness instead of „backyard motives“. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 11: 1188-1207

Zerta, M. Et Al. (2008): Alternative World Energy Outlook (AWEO) and the role of hydrogen in a changing energy landscape. International journal of hydrogen energy, 33: 3021-3025