Renewable Energy Landscapes

Designing place-based infrastructure at scale

Herbrucks Organic Poultry Ranch Sheep

The sheep at Herbrucks Organic Poultry Ranch are controlling weedy species to prepare the site for a solar pollinator planting.

(Photo by Sharlissa Moore | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Clean energy goals and policies have dramatically shifted commerce, resource portfolios, and technology innovation in the last 20 years. Yet, questions remain as to how this shift has contributed and been visible to communities and culture, and how to foster a transformation to renewable energy technologies that delivers  global climate goals along with a tangible local value. While traditional energy system development has often prioritized energy and economic outputs, a broader suite of values and perspectives can support at-scale technology adoption in this emerging reality; this requires balancing attention to place with the urgency to deploy to meet decarbonization goals.

Landscape architecture and other design disciplines offer new tools to envision the tradeoffs that will arise and identify creative pathways for deploying infrastructure. Visualization-based engagement strategies and technology integration offer fresh alternatives and more meaningful, multi-generational infrastructure on the landscape.

Read the Whitepaper: Renewable Energy Landscapes: Designing Place-Based Infrastructure for Scale

REL Attributes

We envision six pathways that draw upon new cooperation between disciplines for designing renewable energy landscapes at scale. Each of these pathways prioritizes the community in which they are built and works to create local value.


Renewable Energy Landscapes Values


Multifunctionality embraces collocating renewable energy with other technologies and land uses in urban, suburban, rural, and coastal communities. The resulting configuration of collocation will depend on the type of site, renewable energy, and components that comprise the system. While multifunctionality may result in trade-offs in efficiency for energy generation, the more efficient use of land can promote place-based deployment at scale. 

Natural Capital

Like other types of infrastructure, renewable energy development can have an impact on ecosystems and the societal and economic benefits they provide to people. Well-planned and thoughtfully designed installations can capitalize on the positive social-ecological values while mitigating harm. Assessing natural capital while siting projects will allow communities to meet objectives that serve both people and nature. 

Generating Local Value

Generating local value through renewable energy landscapes requires attention to the uniqueness of place. To understand what communities value requires redesigning community engagement strategies and economic structures, as well as reaching a broader typology of data-supported benefits and mitigation efforts. Continuous and durable actions will generate this value. A thorough design process can bring attention to place and align energy development with that value. 


With distributed energy resources and decentralized energy systems poised to play a key role in decarbonization, there is a need to develop design approaches that integrate technologies into communities and their built environments. Reflecting the physical and social environments of a landscape in energy development can open more physical opportunities for technology adoption through innovation and a reimagining of space. 


Prioritizing the benefits of increased climate and energy resilience through design can motivate communities to become early adopters of renewable energy in their nearby landscapes. By understanding the critical services—water, sustenance, cooling, heat, communication, and protection from hazards—that support communities, energy developments can be designed to serve them. 

Energy Justice

Designing for energy justice in renewable energy landscapes means both configuring the physical infrastructure in a way that distributes the benefits and costs of the installation as well as fairly constructing the financing schemes and ownership models for energy projects. Doing so can put vulnerable or historically burdened communities at the forefront of renewable energy deployment, utilizing design-based approaches to support them in envisioning their energy futures and realizing the value that can accompany it. 

This research is a part of the Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project, sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Water Power Technologies Office.

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For more information, contact:

Project Partners

Yekang Ko | Website
Landscape Architecture and Environment
University of Oregon and PNNL (Joint Appointment)

Kirk Dimond | Website
Landscape Architecture and Planning
University of Arizona

Nick Pevzner | Website
Landscape Architecture and Design
University of Pennsylvania
Editor, Scenario Journal