University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Cranmer Does Summer Research in Finland on Offshore Wind

Zana Cranmer

Windmill in Finland

Graduate student Zana Cranmer of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department spent the summer collaborating with the Systems Analysis Lab (SAL) at Aalto University, just outside of Helsinki, Finland. She worked with Finnish researchers to develop a model to examine optimal planning approaches for long-term, large-scale, offshore wind development. This summer project will facilitate Cranmer’s ongoing research for MIE’s highly selective graduate program in Offshore Wind Energy Engineering, Environmental Science, and Policy, started with a $3.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT).

This graduate program, whose Principal Investigator is Professor Erin Baker of the MIE department, trains doctoral students in the technology, environmental implications, and social/economic/regulatory challenges of offshore wind farms.

Cranmer’s advisor, Baker, made the connection with the SAL through Professor Ahti Salo, who has conducted research on portfolio optimization for a number of applications related to technology and policy. These tools will allow Cranmer to explore the siting decisions of offshore wind farms from both economic and environmental perspectives and to look at the bigger picture of our energy future.  

Aalto University formed in 2010 from a merger of three diverse and well respected Finnish universities. Finland has a history of leadership in innovation across diverse fields of engineering and design. 

Cranmer also took the opportunity to share her work at the triennial conference of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies, held this year in Barcelona. The conference theme was “The art of modeling” and held sessions covering topics ranging from the behavioral aspects of decision-making to game theory in energy markets.

Cranmer has described her research as “taking interdisciplinary approaches to the challenges of renewable energy development and integration with the grid. Wind in particular is a technologically advanced and economically attractive large-scale renewable generation option, but economics are not the only important factor to consider. We must also understand the electricity grid and its capacity for flexibility as well as the environmental and ecological impacts, and the social outcomes such as employment and human health.”

Cranmer was also the 2013-14 recipient of the Kenneth A. Lloyd Fellowship, awarded annually to a qualified incoming doctoral student in the MIE department who shows exceptional potential for success in his or her field. Mr. Lloyd of Duxbury, Massachusetts, graduated from the College of Engineering in 1973, having majored in mechanical engineering, and is currently the vice president and general manager of Electro Switch Corporation in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Before coming to UMass Amherst, Cranmer earned her M.S. in Engineering and Public Policy from the University of Maryland in 2013 and her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 2007. She also served from 2008 until 2010 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa. (September 2014)