Sharon J.W. Klein, Associate Professor, Graduate Program Coordinator

Sharon Klein

Please visit my US Community Renewable Energy Database to learn more about projects happening across the country. Also, feel free to download the data behind the database here: CommunityEnergyData.

Contact Information

Office: 305 Winslow Hall
Phone: 207.581.3174
E-mail: sharon.klein@maine.edu

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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

Curriculum Vitae (CV)
*I changed my last name from Wagner to Klein in January 2013

Learn more about my work and me by listening to this Maine Science Festival podcast!

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, Community Energy Efficiency, Biofuels, Hydropower, Thermal Energy Storage, Social Benefit-Cost Analysis, Service-Learning.

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 cellulosic biofuels from woody biomass, hydropower, and community-based energy initiatives (especially solar and energy efficiency – window inserts). My research team and I have created a database of U.S. community-based renewable energy projects. Also, check out the Dam Decision Support Toolbox my former Ph.D. student, now Dr. Emma Fox, and I put together with the help of many colleagues as part of the Future of Dams grant.

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. I am committed to integrating teaching, service, and research in all of my classes.

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 service 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 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. I was an Assistant Professor in the School of Economics from 2011-2018, when I was promoted to Associate Professor.

Current Research

I have a Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station appointment to research renewable energy and energy efficiency in Maine. Current research focuses on evaluating the role of community renewable energy and energy efficiency (especially community solar and community window insert builds) in increasing awareness, acceptance and adoption of sustainable energy alternatives in the US. Prior research includes the 6-year National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Sustainable Energy Pathways Integrated National Framework for Cellulosic Drop-In Fuels project, which compared economic and life cycle environmental implications of a new biofuel pathway through multi-criteria decision analysis, and the 5-year NSF-funded New England Sustainability Consortium Future of Dams Project, which estimated the costs and benefits of different hydropower technologies in New England and evaluated tradeoffs in dam decision-making through multi-criteria decision analysis.

Current Teaching

I teach 2 courses that fulfill requirements for UMaine’s 3 Renewable Energy Minors, the School of Economics Concentration in Renewable Energy, and the Ecology and Environmental Science Sustainability, Environmental Policy, and Natural Resource Management Concentration. In 2015, I  also taught a pilot course focused on community-based energy solutions and service learning. All of my courses use a partial “flipped” classroom approach in which students spend much of class time actively engaged in instructor-guided discussions, problem-solving, debates, projects, and other active learning activities.

ECO 180 – Citizens, Energy and Sustainability (Next offered: Spring 2022)
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 Spring 2021. ECO 180 Course Outline S2021.

ECO 405/505 – Sustainable Energy Economics and Policy (Next offered: Spring 2022)
This is a mixed undergraduate/graduate level course that engages students in examining tradeoffs associated with 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, with a focus on renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biomass, hydro, and geothermal power), energy efficiency and conservation, nuclear power, and natural gas, alongside policies to mitigate negative effects. The course adopts a systems-thinking approach, considering options for electricity, heating and transportation and the interplay between these options. Students assess quantitative and qualitative indicators of sustainability related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change, air and water quality, human health and safety, energy security, economic development, wildlife and the environment, technological efficiency and availability. They examine the effect of policies (e.g., carbon prices, emissions targets, efficiency requirements, renewable portfolio standards, feed-in tariffs) on these indicators and tradeoffs. The course provides a brief introduction to environmental life cycle assessment (LCA), a method for considering the environmental impact of a product or process from the “cradle to the grave”, as well as a more in-depth introduction to social benefit cost analysis (SBCA) and multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA). Students apply course concepts to a service-learning project in work with people from surrounding communities on local sustainable energy solutions. This is a service-learning and project-based course, which may require field trips. This course fulfills the General Education requirements for Population & Environment and Quantitative Literacy. ECO 405 505 Syllabus S2021. ECO 405-505 Learning Module Topics S2021. ECO 405-505 Zoom Mtg Schedule S2021.

Current Graduate Students

  • Branden Kuusela