Through the lens of ecologically based planning and design decisions for a renewable energy infrastructure, our project investigates a pilot method that assesses ecological, geographic, and sociopolitical opportunities and constraints. This method couples an application of the University of Pennsylvania Suitability Analysis Method, more commonly known as the McHarg Method, and a statistical analysis of the Appalachian Mountain Region of Pennsylvania in the United States. Despite the region’s high-quality natural resources, persistent reliance on coal industries has resulted in disadvantaged socioeconomic distress and risk. By unraveling linkages between socio-ecological systems and governance actions, the results of our pilot described challenges for the Appalachian Mountain Region in transitioning to a renewable energy infrastructure, while also formulating the basis for county-level strategies that may encourage the pro-environmental governance necessary to promote renewable energy initiatives. We find that Appalachian counties’ relatively low levels of infrastructure density, solar irradiation, population growth, limited access to education centers, and high-quality forests present challenges to allocating suitable areas for solar infrastructure. However, clusters of moderately suitable areas are identifiable throughout the region. Yet such opportunities may struggle to support solar energy initiatives as the region suffers from limited pro-environmental governance, particularly in areas with low-density infrastructure and historically higher levels of dependence on natural resource industries. Above all, our findings identify that the relationship between socio-ecological conditions and pro-environmental governance is complex and often in conflict in key areas of the region.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Urban Studies
- Nature and Landscape Conservation