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Associate Professor and Graduate Urban Design Program Director, University of Virginia


Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering 
University of Virginia

Associate Professor of Practice and Director, Center for EmPowering Communities, University of Michigan

Executive Director Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center

Meeting ID: 996 1820 6554     Passcode: Lithium


Lithium is omnipresent in lithium-ion batteries powering electric vehicles and consumer electronics. It provides storage to balance intermittent renewable power sources such as wind or solar energy, and in our transition toward a more climate-resilient planet, increased lithium consumption is a new, seemingly accepted reality if we want to realize decarbonization goals. With demand increasing worldwide, this rare earth metal is an enabler for a "green new future" and urban transformation processes fostered through the integration of “intelligent” urban technologies. 

The growing scale of solar and wind farms illustrates the fierce competition among renewable energy providers. America's largest solar farm, Solar Star, located in California, covers more than 13 square kilometers—an area four times the size of New York’s Central Park—with 1.7 million solar panels that power about 255,000 homes. These projected lithium needs and demands inspire questions regarding the life cycle of the batteries, but also the way that these new technologies and operational green landscapes are implemented in our environments.

The call for a just energy transition offers the opportunity to foster strategic innovations and to steward more resilient and collaborative lifestyles. Unlike hazardous gas stations or oil refineries, electric charging points and solar farms can be reimagined as hybrid public places, incorporating diverse programs, and activating promising social and economic alliances. 

Addressing climate change through the lens of lithium offers an opportunity to improve urban landscapes and environments through more conscious consumption of this rare metal and its related products. How can area-wide installations of utility-scale solar megafarms, for example, improve land use, embrace land conservation practices, and enhance biodiversity? Can we co-produce new typologies that serve multiple purposes and stakeholders—human and nonhuman alike—as a new green common?

This session brings together planners, designers, scientists, activists, environmentalists, and engineers seeking to improve our urban environments for a sustainable future.

[1] Marília Matoso. “Gas Stations and Electric Cars: How Do They Change Cities.” Translated by Diogo Simões. ArchDaily. December 10, 2022.
[2] James Sylvester. “More with Less | The Electric Fuelling Station of the Future.” Electric Autonomy Canada. 2022.
[3] Scott Becker “A Look Into America’s Largest Solar Farm.” Solstice Community Solar (blog). March 22, 2019.


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