Coffee Hour: Kirby Calvert "Mapping Energy Futures"

Friday, August 29, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

Mapping Energy Futures


About the talk

In principal, the transition toward a low carbon and renewable energy system is a positive change toward a sustainable future. In practice, the large-scale implementation of renewable energy (RE) production systems brings new demands to local land-based economic activities and ecosystem services as well as unfamiliar opportunities and challenges to households, communities, planners, and policy-makers. In other words, the transition to RE resources is necessarily disruptive to prevailing socio-ecological systems and is in some cases (perceived to be) socially and environmentally regressive. 

This presentation provides a descriptive overview of selected ongoing research projects which leverage geographic information systems (GIS) to improve our understanding of the geographic implications of large-scale RE production and to facilitate informed policy, planning and investment decisions that minimize as much as possible the negative impacts of more intensive RE resource development. Four research projects are discussed:

(1) developing a standardized RE resource-reserve classification system;

(2) investigating the opportunities and challenges to RE production in viniculture regions;

(3) studying the availability, causes, and envisioned uses of ‘surplus’ (‘abandoned’ agricultural) land in the US; and

(4) developing a novel decision-support tool to locate and evaluate opportunities for residential rooftop solar energy production across an urban area. 

Overall, the purpose of this presentation is to communicate the broad contours of my teaching and research program, which aims to understand how the transition to renewable energy co-constitutes geographic change as well as re-configurations to the way in which social (socio-technical) and ecological systems are coupled; and how (if) we can develop policy frameworks which facilitate the rapid but responsible development and implementation of RE systems. 


About the speaker

Kirby CalvertAfter completing his Ph.D. at Queen’s University (Ontario, Canada) in June 2013, Kirby Calvert accepted a position as an assistant professor of Geography at Penn State and as a faculty affiliate at the Penn State Institutes of Energy and Environment. On a scholarly level, he is interested in the productive tensions which emerge at the intersection of critical, scientific, and applied approaches to policy studies, resource geography/resource management and regional geography/regional planning. His teaching and research program engages in interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research projects which emphasize energy and energy futures. This program is best described in two complementary parts:

1) developing and applying geographic concepts and techniques to facilitate informed decisions related to land-use and energy system planning in the context of increasing rate of renewable energy system implementation; and

2) studying and interpreting the broader geographical implications (on land-use; regional development; socio-geographic networks) of intensive renewable energy development.  The talk will focus mostly on part (1). 

For more information about Calvert’s personal and professional interests, you can visit his web page at

Angela Rogers