Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Walter Poleman


Climate change creates an imperative to develop renewable energy infrastructure, and the state of Vermont has committed to developing new renewables. However, renewables pose significant threats to natural systems because of the dramatic changes to ecosystems that occur with development. Public outcry over new developments and dissatisfaction with the current process used for siting indicate that the old regulatory process may be outdated. This thesis seeks to bridge the divide between ecology and law in renewable energy infrastructure siting. Using the state of Vermont as a case study, it suggests a new, proactive energy planning process that would use spatial analysis and public involvement to bring experts and citizens together to evaluate difficult tradeoffs and make hard choices about where to site renewables.

In this thesis I use content analysis to determine which issues are important to stakeholders involved in the debate about energy siting. I then develop spatial analysis of Chittenden County to examine four metrics important to siting: generating potential, carbon storage, viewshed, and biodiversity. This spatial analysis could be applied by policy makers to evaluate tradeoffs among these four metrics. Finally, I propose a new regulatory siting process that would use stakeholder engagement and proactive planning to create "Renewable Energy Zones" where development could be fast-tracked while safeguards are in place to protect important natural resources and the public interest.

A better understanding of public concern, landscape-scale spatial modeling of ecosystem services, and a new proactive energy planning process could pave the way for a more effective siting process that allows for rapid development of renewables to combat climate change and includes local voices.



Number of Pages

170 p.