2017 Working Group: Resolving Conflicts of “Greens”: Energy Planning for Sustainable Landscape Conservation

Resolving Conflicts of “Greens”:  Energy Planning for Sustainable Landscape Conservation
Yekang Ko, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon

In the era of climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) through renewable energy is becoming a professed goal for many cities and nations. Given national/state level policies on green energy to achieve their GHG reduction targets, cities and states consider mega-scale renewable energy farms on remote public lands and rural areas to meet the energy needs for urban residents and industries. Although these renewable energy farms seem much “greener” than fossil fuel power plants, many of the sites that look abandoned and useless often are valuable ecosystems that serve as critical habitats for abundant wildlife, including endangered species. In addition to ecological impacts, rural communities oppose these green projects due to their social and economic impacts on living (e.g. fishermen whose livelihoods depend on impacted tidal flats and bays) and quality of life (e.g. noise, turbulence and aesthetic landscape disturbance from wind farms). We are witnessing cases of these “green” conflicts across the Pacific Rim and the world from the world’s largest tidal power proposals on tidal flats in South Korea, solar farm proposals on abandoned saltpans in Taiwan, to solar and wind farms on deserts in California and many more.

This working group investigated cases of “green” conflicts between large-scale renewable energy facilities and landscape conservations across the Pacific Rim and beyond. By conducting a cross-regional assessment through interdisciplinary perspectives, we explored 1) social, ecological and economic trade-offs of different energy systems across spatial scales, 2) proper scales that work best for social, ecological and economic needs and 3) the methodologies for identifying suitable sites and scales that minimize negative impacts. Outcomes of this working group are intended to provide an interdisciplinary framework for sustainable energy landscapes and implications for policy-making and planning in comparable cases.