Graduation Date

Spring 2021

Document Type

Thesis

Program

Master of Science degree with a major in Environmental Systems, option Energy, Technology, and Policy

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Arne Jacobson

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Deepti Chatti

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Dr. Peter Alstone

Subject Categories

Environmental Systems

Abstract

Humboldt County has abundant wind, solar, and biomass resources, but has made limited progress towards the state’s 2045 requirement of 100% clean electricity. A recently rejected onshore wind project showed that technically and economically viable projects can fall to social and political challenges, emphasizing the need for social considerations in renewable transitions. I therefore integrated community members’ preferences into modeling of RPS-consistent renewable energy scenarios in Humboldt County. My model suggests that offshore wind, utility-scale solar, distributed solar, and biomass power are technically and economically viable sources of significant local generation at varying costs.

In interviews with energy-engaged residents, I observed divergent normative conceptions of Humboldt County’s energy future despite climate change mitigation through renewables growth being unanimously desired. Some envisaged a future of minimally intrusive distributed solar, while others support projects at a scale that would transform Humboldt County into “the Silicon Valley of wind energy.” These opinions frequently overlaid conceptions of appropriateness and efficiency, for example, preferring offshore wind over cheaper utility-scale solar because Humboldt County’s wind resource abstractly overshadows its solar resource. Participants prioritized projects which best use Humboldt’s resources. Because some support exclusively distributed solar while others believe it to be technically infeasible, a thorough study of distributed resource potential could help create the shared understanding necessary for productive discourse and concerted political effort against climate change. Continuous discussions among stakeholders could create a permission space for energy infrastructure and avoid wasting time and money on projects inconsistent with social and political desires.

Citation Style

APA

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