Mara van den Bold, a Ph.D. candidate in Clark University’s Graduate School of Geography, has been recognized by the American Geographical Society (AGS) for her research on the implications of large-scale renewable energy development for rural livelihoods. She is one of four scholars to receive the 2019 AGS Council Fellowship; winners were selected from a highly competitive field and a record number of applicants. Van den Bold will be honored at the annual AGS Fall Symposium at Columbia University on Nov. 21 and 22.
The fellowship award will allow her to continue her study, “Greening energy: the politics of solar power in Senegal,” which focuses on the connection between politics and renewable energy development and the implications of utility-scale renewable energy projects for rural communities. There has been substantial research on the global potential for renewable energy, as well as on the financial feasibility of such systemic transitions to renewable sources. However, much less is known about how countries, at a national level, pursue and manage such transitions to renewable energy, and how this process influences the siting and installation of large-scale projects.
Van den Bold is exploring how Senegal is politically navigating the development of renewable energy in the context of recently discovered offshore oil and gas reserves. Her case study will examine the community-level impacts of the Taiba N’Diaye wind power project, one of the largest utility-scale wind projects in West Africa.
Once it begins operating in 2020, the wind farm will add 158.7 megawatts of clean, reliable power to Senegal’s electricity grid. It will provide power for over 2 million people and is designed to generate electricity for at least 20 years using its 46 wind turbines.
“I am absolutely thrilled to receive the AGS Council Fellowship,” said van den Bold. “It will support my work in the communities where the wind project is being developed.” She plans to interview community members, facility staff, and local government officials, as well as attend community meetings, as part of her fieldwork.
“The future of geographic research and innovation is bright as long as we support young scholars,” said Dr. Marie Price, chair of the Selection Committee and president of AGS. “The AGS Council Fellowship is one of the ways that our society encourages graduate students to pursue original research around the world.”
Established in 1851, AGS is the oldest professional geographical organization in the United States. It is dedicated to the advancement of geographic thinking, knowledge, and understanding across business, government, academe, social sectors, and with teachers and students. The mission of AGS is to advance and promote geography in business, government, science, and education. The Society seeks to engage the American public with new and amazing ways to understand and characterize our changing world.