The are many dimensions related to the local implications of renewable energy generation that have yet to be explored in much depth, especially impact that tend to be less visible stages along the supply chain lifecycle. As policies are developed that look to grow renewable energy infrastructure while also aiming for an equitable distribution of benefits, these questions as to how communities will be impacted across the renewable supply chain become increasingly pressing.
This grant funds a highly interdisciplinary team at Boston University, the University of Delaware, and Virginia Tech to analyze eight case studies relating to the equity and justice dimensions of renewable energy production in the U.S. Funded case studies will focus on several different stages of the renewable energy supply chain, including resource extraction, construction and manufacturing, electricity generation in rural areas, and end-stage issues like recycling, disposal, and decommissioning. Studies will be divided evenly between wind and solar generation and will focus on a wide range of geographies including critical mineral mining in Utah and Texas, solar panel manufacturing in Ohio, offshore wind installation along the Northeast Coast, a solar e-waste recycling in Kansas, and wind turbine blade disposal in Iowa. Study methods will include semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, focus groups, expert elicitations, and observations to explore community experiences, opportunities, and vulnerabilities.
The research team will draw on several conceptual frameworks to analyze the equity dimensions of the renewable energy supply chain. These include a feminist lens that addresses gender power dynamics, an anti-racist lens that focuses on racial discrimination, an Indigenous lens that explores historical patterns of land appropriation, and a post-colonial lens that relates to broader geopolitical factors. The team will link these frameworks with the empirical case studies to develop a fuller, multi-dimensional conceptualization of energy justice that promises to help illuminate the impacts of renewable energy development throughout the United States and provide important insights across all stages of the renewable energy supply chain.