Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zürich) founded in 1855 is one of the leading technology and natural science universities in the world. With more than 18,000 students from 110 countries it is also one of the biggest in Europe. Twenty-one Nobel Prize laureates who studies, taught or conducted research at ETH Zurich underline reputation of the university.
Following global trends, subject of renewable energy is an important part of the ETH’s curriculum. Many research programs are dedicated to ecological, economical and social implications of energy production and consumption. One of the biggest concerns is social acceptance of wind farms. Based on various premises many local communities actively oppose construction of wind turbines in their area, even though most of their concerns are not supported by the actual data and are based more on people’s perception than the actual facts.
Unfortunately many communities learn about plans for construction of wind farms from media reports which often fail to provide the full project information that public needs to evaluate pros and cons of a proposed development. Studies have shown that providing community members with comprehensive information on given project leads to enhanced support for wind turbines. While discussion panels and distribution of printed materials shows some effectiveness, advancement in technology opens new window of opportunity to change perception of skeptical communities on a visceral level using immersive visualization technologies.
Researchers at ETH Zurich adopted Freedomes spherical projection technology to explore opportunity to increase acceptance for renewable energy sources. Freedome 50 geodesic dome featuring a projection liner and unique print on its exterior displaying global air currents. It also featured an optional entrance tunnel which decreases chance of exterior light entering the dome and affecting quality of projection. As one of the primary premises of this project is an ability to tour from one community to another, ease of its assembly and dismantle is a great advantage.
Projection features interactive visualization of wind farm superimposed on local landscape additionally enhanced by information about the advantages of proposed project. Since spherical projection dome is an audio-visual solution it also features a narration and an acoustic rendering of sound produced by wind farm in this particular area.
First area visited was Lublin Voivodeship in Poland, where public outcry has already resulted in two cancelled projects and the third one hangs in the balance. Immersion dome will help local institutions to find and address causes of this reluctance towards wind generated power. Received feedback will also help in planning of forthcoming wind farm projects not only in Poland but throughout the Europe.
Immersion dome by Freedomes proved to be a very effective PR tool, as it did not only attract attention of local communities but it has also been featured in local and nationwide media increasing awareness about importance of investment in renewable energy sources.