Social barriers to renewable energy landscapes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


After many years of slow progress, we find that worldwide environmental, political, and economic pressures are providing greater purchase for the accelerated development of renewable energy. Although many people would consider this quickening pace good news, the transition from conventional resources has encountered public resistance. In this article I examine the nature of challenges to the development of geothermal, wind, and solar energy projects in three places: the United States, Scotland, and Mexico. The common thread in the public reservations about renewable energy is landscape change and the consequent disruption such change produces to established ways of life for those who are nearby. It also suggests the importance of rebalancing the emphasis of renewable energy programs away from the traditional technical focus that dominates development planning. The more suitable and expedient approach would be to consider the challenges of development as predominantly social matters with technical components, rather than the other way around. To accept this view is to unlock the door to a renewable energy future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-223
Number of pages23
JournalGeographical Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011


  • Landscape
  • Renewable energy
  • Society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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