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Faculty and Staff - Klein

Sharon Klein

Sharon J.W. Klein

Assistant Professor

Office: 305 Winslow Hall
Phone: 207.581.3174
LinkedIn Profile

*I changed my last name from Wagner to Klein in January 2013
Click here for information on courses I teach.

To see continued contributions by Dr. Klein:

Academic Degrees

Ph.D., Engineering & Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
M.S., Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
B.S., Environmental Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
CV Sharon Klein

If you are a Maine resident, I would greatly appreciate you taking this survey about a Sustainable Energy License Plate for Maine, developed by an undergraduate student in the School of Economics, Garrett Raymond:

Research/Teaching Areas

Interdisciplinary Energy Analysis (Engineering-Economic Assessment, Environmental Life Cycle Assessment, Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis), Renewable Energy Economics and Policy, Solar Energy, Community Solar, Biofuels, Hydropower, Thermal Energy Storage, Social Benefit-Cost Analysis

Research Interests

My research is interdisciplinary in nature and centers on the technical, economic, environmental and social tradeoffs inherent in the production, distribution, and use of energy. I use engineering-economic analysis, environmental life cycle assessment, social benefit-cost analysis, and multi-criteria decision analysis to assess tradeoffs in energy decision-making. I am interested in all energy options that have the potential to lead to a more sustainable energy future. I have particular expertise in concentrated solar power, molten salt thermal energy storage, distributed solar thermal and photovoltaics (PV), drop-in celluloisic biofuels from woody biomass, hydropower, and community-based energy initiatives (especially solar and energy efficiency – window inserts). I am in the process of building a database of U.S. community-based renewable energy projects, which I intend to make publicly available.

Here is a link to a recent presentation about my community solar work. And, this page has more information about my community energy work.

Teaching Philosophy

My personal interest in teaching stems from the long-held belief that education is vital to the creation of a more sustainable and aware society. Experience has shown me that effective education incorporates a set of best practices that apply to all age levels: 1) clear and consistent expectations; 2) active learning (i.e., discussions, debates, projects, reflection, etc); 3) fair and comprehensive assessments; and 4) respect and understanding of diverse student motivations and learning styles. Developing a meaningful course requires time and experimentation; it is an iterative process in which instructional tools are refined and improved based on instructor and student reflection & evaluation each time the course is taught. As my students learn from me, I also learn from them and become a better educator and researcher as a result.

Professional Background

After receiving my B.S. in Environmental Science, I volunteered for one term of service with the Americorps National Civilian Community Corps. I was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina and traveled with a team of thirteen people to seven states in the Southeast region of the Unites States doing projects in the areas of education, the environment, and unmet human needs.  I then worked for nearly two years as an environmental technician in San Diego, California, helping to remediate soil and groundwater contamination from leaking underground gasoline and diesel storage tanks.  Subsequently, I worked for three years as a middle school science teacher in San Diego and earned a California Teaching Credential in Chemistry from National University.  I then taught International Baccalaureate Environmental Systems to high school students in Quito, Ecuador for two years before beginning graduate studies.

My doctoral research examined the environmental and economic implications of thermal energy storage for concentrated solar power (CSP) plants.  I created an integrated assessment model (IAM) that calculates the annual capacity factor, levelized cost of energy, life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and land use of a parabolic trough CSP plant with three different energy backup systems and two cooling options. The IAM uses a multi-criteria decision analysis framework to assess the tradeoffs between different backup systems and cooling technologies in order to develop policy recommendations. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship and the Climate Decision-Making Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

Current Research

I have been an Assistant Professor in the School of Economics since 2011. I have a Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station appointment to research renewable energy in Maine. Current research projects include: 1) National Science Foundation (NSF) Sustainable Energy Pathways Integrated National Framework for Cellulosic Drop-In Fuels – comparing economic and life cycle environmental implications of a new biofuel pathway through multi-criteria decision analysis; 2) evaluating the role of community renewable energy and energy efficiency (especially community solar (click here for more information) and community window insert builds) in increasing awareness, acceptance and adoption of sustainable energy alternatives in the US; 3) NSF-funded New England Sustainability Consortium Future of Dams Project (see: – estimating the costs and benefits of different hydropower technologies in New England and evaluating tradeoffs in dam decision-making through multi-criteria decision analysis; and 4) assessing economic, social, environmental and policy barriers and opportunities to widespread distributed solar energy deployment in Maine (PV and water heating).

Current Teaching

I teach 2 courses that fulfill requirements for the Renewable Energy Minors and the School of Economics Concentration in Renewable Energy, and recently taught a pilot course (Fall 2015) focused on community-based energy solutions and service learning. All of my courses use a “flipped” classroom approach in which students spend most class time actively engaged in instructor-guided discussions, problem-solving, debates, projects, and other active learning activities. I intend to incorporate a service learning project in my 2 regular courses starting in Fall 2016.

ECO 180 – Citizens, Energy and Sustainability (Fall Semester)
Introduces students to the technical, economic, environmental, and social implications of energy production and use, providing students with a broad understanding of energy issues. Students learn how citizens play a vital role in determining the direction that the future energy system and policies will take. This course fulfills the General Education Population & Environment requirement.  I teach ECO 180 in the active learning classroom Estabrooke 130. ECO 180 syllabus fall 2015.

ECO 405/590 – Sustainable Energy Economics and Policy (Fall Semester)
This is a mixed undergraduate/graduate level course that engages students in quantifying and assessing the technical, economic, environmental, and social implications of energy supply, distribution, and use in the context of transitioning toward a sustainable energy future. Students examine a variety of energy options, including fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass, hydro, and geothermal).  The effects of energy use on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, on air and water quality, and on human health are considered alongside policies to mitigate these effects, such as carbon prices, emissions targets, efficiency requirements and investments, and renewable portfolio standards. Alternative future energy paths are developed that are consistent with environmental stewardship, energy security, and sustainable economic growth and development. This course fulfills the General Education requirements for Population & Environment and Quantitative Literacy. ECO 405 590 syllabus 2015

ECO 370: Building Sustainable Community Energy Communities through Service Learning (Pilot Course in Fall 2015))

This was a pilot course, available for the first time in Fall 2015. This course taught students about the role of community action in creating a sustainable energy future. Students engaged in service learning – “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities” (Learn more about Service Learning here). Students also engaged in original research – preparing a final project that evaluated the costs and benefits of the service learning project.  For the service project, we partnered with WindowDressers and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor to do a window insert build, in which we built 375 interior wood-framed, plastic window inserts to reduce heat loss and save energy in old, drafty windows for 33 clients, with 27% of the inserts available to low-income families for a suggested contribution of $1/insert (up to $10; regular customers paid $2/square ft).

This course may be offered again in Fall 2017. If so, future projects may include assessing the economic and environmental impacts of a community renewable energy installation (e.g., solar farm), building eco-homes, creating and maintaining a permaculture area, engaging students in a new energy conservation program, tracking energy use at the University, etc. Depending on project and transportation availability, service learning may occur within the University community or one of the surrounding communities (i.e., Orono, Old Town, Veazie, Bangor, etc). This is a project-based course that requires field trips.

Recent Publications  (note: I changed my last name to Klein in January 2013)

•Klein, S.J.W., Dutra, S., 2016, Economic and environmental assessment of solar water heating for Maine. in progress.

Neupane, B., Klein, S., Wheeler, C., 2016, Life Cycle Assessment of Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Drop-in Diesel from Forest Biomass in Maine, revising.

Whalley, S., Klein, S.J.W., Benjamin, J., Rubin, J., 2016, Economic analysis of woody biomass supply chain in Maine, revising.

Klein, S.J.W. and S. Coffey, 2016, Building a sustainable energy future, one community at a time, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 60, pp. 867–880, doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2016.01.129.

Rubin, J., Neupane, B., Whalley, S., Klein, S., 2015. Woody Biomass Supply, Economics, and Biofuel Policy. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board 2502, 108–115. doi:10.3141/2502-13.

•Klein, S.J.W. and Whalley, S., 2015, Comparing the sustainability of U.S. electricity options through multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA), Energy Policy, 79. 127-149.

•Anderson, M., Teisl, M., Noblet, C., and Klein, S., 2014, The incompatibility of benefit-cost analysis with sustainability science, Sustainability Science, September, 1-9. doi:10.1007/s11625-014-0266-4.

•Wagner, S. and Rubin, E., 2014, Economic implications of thermal energy storage for concentrated solar thermal power, Renewable Energy, 61C, 81-95, 545 renene.2012.08.013.

•Klein, S.J.W. 2013, A multi-criteria decision analysis of concentrated solar power with thermal energy storage and dry cooling. Environmental Science & Technology 47 (24): 13925-33. doi:10.1021/es403553u.

•Mario F. Teisl, Shannon McCoy, Sarah Marrinan, Caroline L. Noblet, Teresa Johnson, Megan Wibberly, Robert Roper, and Sharon Klein. 2014, Will offshore energy face ‘fair winds and following seas’?: Understanding the factors influencing offshore wind acceptance. Estuaries and Coasts. published online February 6, 2014, DOI 10.1007/s12237-014-9777-6.

Klein, S.J.W. and Rubin, E.S. 2013, Life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use for concentrated solar power plants with different energy backup systems, Energy Policy, 63, 935-950, DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2013.08.057.

Recent Honors

Current Graduate Students

  • Stephanie Coffey
  • Robert Langton
  • Chelsea Liddell
  • Dan Mistro

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