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Drivers and energy justice implications of renewable energy project siting in the United States

The rapid expansion of solar and wind energy projects is raising questions of energy justice. Some scholars argue that solar and wind project development could burden under-resourced communities with negative impacts such as environmental harm and reduced access to resources. Conversely, other scholars argue that project development could be a boon to under-resourced communities, providing local economic and cultural benefits. Here, we analyze the drivers of solar and wind project siting patterns in the United States and explore their potential energy justice implications. We find that siting patterns are driven primarily by technoeconomic factors, especially resource quality and access to open undeveloped spaces. These technoeconomic factors channel projects into sparsely populated rural areas and, to a lesser extent, areas with lower income levels. We avoid simplifying assumptions about the broad justice implications of these siting patterns and explore our results from multiple perspectives.