Prof. Dr. Adrienne Grêt-Regamey | Landscape Planning and Urban Systems (PLUS)

VisAsim – Visual‐Acoustic Simulation for landscape impact assessment of wind farms

In Europe, renewable energies are strongly exploited for sustainable energy supply. Wind energy is an important energy source. In Switzerland, the development of wind energy proceeds very slowly due to objections of local inhabitants and landscape organizations. How can the impact assessment of planned wind farms on the landscape be enhanced in order to determine socially accepted locations?

Planning of wind farms appears to be a complicated matter in Switzerland and all over Europe, coming along with growing government and business frustration. As key problem, top‐down planning approaches lacking the public’s judgment about the acceptability of a wind farm in particular places have been determined. Most significant factors explaining support or rejection of wind farms are their impacts on the visual aesthetical landscape quality and the sense of place in a specific landscape context and noise made by rotating turbine blades. Current planning tools including 2D maps, 3D visualizations and data for noise levels, however, fail to integrate these factors into site planning for identifying suitable places for wind power technologies.

Goal and methods
We propose the development of a visual‐acoustic simulation tool, which integrates the realistic soundscape of wind turbine noise into GIS‐based 3D landscape visualizations of alternative wind farm scenarios for valuing their impact on the landscape quality. In an interdisciplinary approach realistic acoustic soundscape modeling and GIS‐based 3D landscape visualizations are integrated into a single simulation tool. In the first project phase, we will generate for a reference site of an existing wind farm at the Mont Crosin (BE) a reference movie and sound recordings as well as a visual and an acoustic simulation. The latter will then be integrated into a prototype of an audiovisual reproduction system, which will be tested in experiments to proof the validity of the simulation in comparison to the reference movie/sound. In the second project phase, visual‐acoustic simulation models for three focus areas with different landscape characteristics will be established and used in acceptability studies for valuation of alternative wind farm scenarios. Overall, the simulation tool allows for an improved impact assessment, which provides a better, more comprehensible decision basis for designating suitable locations for wind farms, e.g. in federal concepts on the potential areas for wind farms, in cantonal directive plans or in communal land use plans.

The innovative aspects of acoustical auralization are the development of new algorithms and strategies for simulating spatially explicit sound of wind turbines taking into account the environmental context. Regarding the field of 3D landscape visualization, we will contribute to the research on providing sufficient realism for visual landscape quality assessment as well as the integration of spatially explicit sound into GIS‐based visualization tools. Moreover, the application of combined visual and acoustic simulations in acceptability studies will further enhance state‐of‐the‐art non‐market valuation techniques. Within a broader context, the valuation results will allow deriving recommendations for planning wind farms and support exploiting the full potential of wind energy.



Dr. Ulrike Wissen Hayek (PLUS)
Madeleine Manyoky (PLUS)
Thomas M. Klein (PLUS)
Prof. Dr. Grêt‐Regamey (PLUS)
Dr. Kurt Heutschi (EMPA)
Reto Pieren (EMPA)
Kurt Eggenschiler (EMPA)

Advisory Board

Bernard Staub, Kanton Solothurn, Amt für Raumplanung und Präsident der Kantonsplaner‐Konferenz
Barbara Schwickert, Stadt Biel/Bienne
Markus Geissmann, Bundesamt für Energie (BFE), Sektion Erneuerbare Energien, Leiter Windenergie und Geothermie
Gérard Poffet, Bundesamt für Umwelt (BAFU), Vizedirektor; Hans Bögli, Bundesamt für Umwelt (BAFU), Leiter Sektion Luftfahrt, Militär, Gesundheit
Reto Rigassi, CEO Suisse Eole
Fanny Frei, ewz (Elektrizitätswerk der Stadt Zürich), Erneuerbare Energien und Energieeffizenz
Mark Brink, ETH Zürich, Arbeits‐ und Organisationspsychologie (Lärmwirkungsforschung)
Nick Beglinger, Foundation For Global Sustainability (FFGS)
Diego Salmeron, CEO LEP Consultants AG
Peter Schwer, CEO New Energy Scout GmbH
Pierre Strub – nachhaltig wirkt


Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)


07.2011 – 06.2014


Completed project

Project Link