Analysis and modeling of the food-water-energy nexus based on three model regions

Overview + Research Question

Urban regions face major challenges in the future supply of food, water and energy. The IN-SOURCE project addresses the Food-Water-Energy (FWE) nexus in three case studies to analyze relationships and synergies between resources: Ludwigsburg County (DE), the Gowanus/Brooklyn neighborhood, New York City (USA), and the City of Vienna (A). Here, the interdisciplinary team is investigating scenarios for an integrated CO2-neutral and sustainable infrastructure by developing an urban data and modeling framework to help analyze food-water-energy systems and relationships along the nexus. Oriented to the needs of urban and regional stakeholders, a common 3D data model for cities and regions in Europe and the US will be used for this purpose.


At HFT Stuttgart, a web-based 3D visualization of the Ludwigsburg district was created in previous and parallel projects, which includes a digital landscape model and the entire building stock. This makes it possible to visualize the heat demand and photovoltaic potential for each individual building in the district (39 municipalities and about 500,000 inhabitants). IN-SOURCE extends this 3D model with data on biomass, food and water/wastewater. For this purpose, parameters for the extension of the data model are derived from detailed analyses.

In order to perform modeling along the FWE nexus, new workflows were developed within the SimStadt simulation platform developed at HFT Stuttgart. Currently, various workflows are already defined in SimStadt, such as solar potential analysis, PV potential analysis, or heating/cooling demand analysis with renovation strategy. In IN-SOURCE, especially workflows for biomass and food potential simulation and urban water demand simulation have been extended. With the new biomass workflow, for example, the locally available energy potential (in combination with the local PV potential) can be compared to the modeled energy demand of the district and synergies between food and energy can be shown. Finally, the water required for biomass production was included to explore the interactions in the food-energy-water complex. Simulations of urban water demand help to better understand the impact of demand on decisions on the potential side.


The German subproject takes up the ambitious climate protection plan of the district Ludwigsburg, provides decision support and makes interactions in the FWE sector transparent. Scenarios with a time horizon until 2050 are to show in particular solutions for the realization of a maximum renewable supply under consideration of their interactions on the local food production and the water balance of the district.

FWE-Nexus on regional level
Another workflow for the simulation of the PV open space potential was developed to complement the modeling of energy potentials in rural areas[1]. Here, different land use restriction scenarios are considered in order to analyze the PV open space potentials in high temporal-spatial detail. This provides the main workflows for a comprehensive FWE analysis on a regional scale and allows to quantify both positive and negative interactions between open space PV, local bioenergy and food potentials, and water demands and supplies, e.g. the loss of biomass potentials due to PV expansion and associated reduced irrigation demand in agriculture, in order to develop optimal land use scenarios in the context of the FWE nexus.

FWE in urban areas
The combination of green roofs and rooftop PV systems was analyzed in more detail as a main focus of the FWE nexus in cities. Here, work (DOI: 10.48494/REALCORP2021.3030) was conducted to determine the PV yield increase, storm water mitigation effect, and heating savings of buildings with green roofs and PV.

The biomass workflow is the flagship of the FWE analyses within the project. The biomass simulation has been extended by Ludwigsburg County in other projects to Dithmarschen County (SH) as well as Ilm County (TH) and - again within IN-SOURCE - to the City of Vienna. The workflow interacts with the land use change simulation of the project partner AIT via FWE ADE (FWE Application Domain Extension). FWE ADE was created as a common data framework for data exchange between different tools and project partners (DOI: 10.48494/REALCORP2021.2050). Another transfer case is Reunion Island (France), where biomass potential from forestry, agriculture, and municipal waste was studied to achieve energy self-sufficiency (DOI: 10.1016/j.esd.2021.12.002).

In addition to aggregated results mentioned above, a 3D viewer was created to illustrate the attributes of individual agricultural areas and buildings using Ludwigsburg County as an example[2]. Biomass and food potential and the food, water and heat demand as well as the PV roof area potential were displayed here in three dimensions and browser-based.


[1] A wind-onshore workflow is being developed in a parallel research project.


Go to the page of the Food-Water-Energy Simulation Tool

ManagementProf. Dr. Volker Coors
Partner (external)City University of New York (CUNY), New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), AIT - Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH - Center for Energy, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna, Ludwigsburg District, AH Consult Stuttgart

HFT transfer portal 
Project e-mail
FundingFederal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (German subproject)
Call for proposalJPI Urban Europe / Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative (SUGI) Food-Water-Energy Nexus
Duration01.06.2018 - 31.05.2021, extended until 30.09.2021



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Prorektor Forschung und Digitalisierung+49 711 8926 2663 1/121
Professor+49 711 8926 2371 7/028
Akademischer/Forschung Mitarbeiter (GeoInformatic)+49 711 8926 2838 2/281