Solarity Session 6

Mapping Community Renewable Energy and Managing the Landscape Transformations of Our Transition to Solarity

Led by Kirby Calvert and Rebecca Jahns
University of Guelph, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics

Achieving solarity in industrial societies implies a structural shift away from below ground fuels – i.e., coal, oil, natural gas – toward above ground energy flows – i.e., solar, wind, biomass, and other forms of renewable energy. Renewable energy systems generally, and solar energy systems in particular, are spatially distributed and land-intensive forms of energy generation. In other words, the transition to renewable energy will drive, and be driven by, profound changes in the way industrial societies organize and perceive land-use systems and landscapes, especially in rural areas where access to renewable energy is highest.

The purpose of this workshop is to think through the notion that ‘energy transition is (rural) landscape transformation’. We will address the following questions: How do we implement more renewable energy without compromising the integrity of existing ecosystem services and land-based economies? Who makes these decisions? Who’s landscape values – i.e., embedded and often implicit assumptions about acceptable landscape forms and functions – are shaping the spatial pattern of renewable energy development? And how can we minimize community tensions that seem to be inflamed by these landscape transformations and rooted in diverging landscape value systems?

The workshop will have two parts. First, a brief presentation by the workshop organizers followed by a facilitated conversation through which we will engage directly with the questions above. Our aim is to unpack the policy-technology-geography interactions that currently underlie the development of renewable energy landscapes in terms of where and in what form they take shape. Second, a participatory mapping exercise that will demonstrate one possible model through which to involve communities, broadly defined, in spatial planning for renewable energy development. The mapping exercise will give us an opportunity to talk about the changing role of ‘community’ in energy planning and the role of landscape value systems in planning for energy futures.