Author ORCID Identifier

Document Type


Publication Date



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography


Staying within manageable global temperature rise scenarios (i.e., 1.5° C) requires rapid decarbonization of energy sources. Research on the energy transition typically focuses on engineering, socioeconomic, and political challenges related to implementation of renewable energy technologies. Yet many facets of the energy transition are intricately intertwined with earth surface processes. Projects that advance the energy transition affect surface hydrology, sediment transport, and landscape evolution. Geomorphic processes likewise set the feasibility of energy transition projects. Here I use the lens of a recent policy debate to examine a case study that illustrates the key role of surface processes in determining the geomorphic impact and feasibility of the energy transition: the potential for conversion of agricultural land to photovoltaic arrays to drive soil erosion and water quality degradation. I point to open research questions that will result in both basic science advances and improved policy outcomes arising from effective geomorphic assessment of potential solar development. Zooming out from this case study, I suggest that there are significant environmental benefits to be gained by integrating earth surface processes research into planning for – and realizing – the transition to sustainable energy.

Source Citation

Shobe, C.M. (2022) How impervious are solar arrays? On the need for geomorphic assessment of energy transition technologies. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 47(14), 3219– 3223. Available from:


This journal prohibits uploading the typeset version. This is the accepted version, which differs from the final, typeset version of record that can be found here:

Available for download on Thursday, November 23, 2023