Speaker: Sharon Klein, assistant professor, School of Economics, University of Maine
“Community energy” is a growing movement in the US and around the world. People are adopting sustainable energy technologies and strategies (renewable energy, energy efficiency, conservation) in groups and/or on shared property, in contrast to traditional individualistic adoption. What is motivating this group adoption? What are the different ways community energy is being implemented? What benefits and challenges are associated with these different implementation methods? How can this “power of the people” be harnessed to achieve a more sustainable energy system? These overarching questions drive this research, which focuses on community solar as a subset of the larger community energy movement. This presentation will include an overview of the types of community solar projects currently being implemented across the United States, including results from a new national database of nearly 6,000 community solar projects. In addition, Klein will present the results of a survey of participants in five main types of community solar projects (Solarize, solar farms, municipal solar, solar schools and nonprofit solar) in Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont, conducted summer 2015. The overall goal of this research is to understand the benefits and challenges of the growing US community solar movement and how it can be harnessed to help advance a more sustainable energy system.
Sharon Klein has been an assistant professor in the School of Economics at the University of Maine since 2011. She has a Ph.D. in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.S. in environmental science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has 5 years of experience as a secondary school science teacher (San Diego and Ecuador), as well as experience as an environmental technician and Americorps volunteer. Klein is an interdisciplinary energy researcher and educator, engaging students, citizens, policy-makers and other stakeholders in understanding energy issues and making more sustainable choices. Her motivation for working in this area stems from the knowledge that the way we currently use energy has long-lasting and unsustainable environmental and social consequences, coupled with the long-held belief that people have the power to create a better world through civic engagement, grassroots action, community-building, and education. Her research has focused on utility-scale, residential, and community solar, as well as biofuels, offshore wind energy and other renewable and non-renewable power plants, using diverse methods such as engineering-economic assessment, life cycle assessment, social benefit-cost analysis, and multicriteria decision analysis.