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MIE Alum Wins Clean Energy Award

Mechanical engineering alumnus Walter D. Musial (’80 B.S., ’83 M.S.) is the 2011 recipient of the UMass Amherst Alumni Association’s first Alumni Clean Energy Award (ACE). This award recognizes notable achievement or innovation in the public, business, or professional areas of clean energy or technologies. Musial is a principal engineer and manager of Offshore Wind and Ocean Power Systems at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. “UMass really changed my outlook on engineering,” he said. “In 1979, it was the only place in the country that had a full big picture view of renewable energy development, before the term was even being used. I took classes in solar, wind, and all kinds of energy conversion and that just hooked me in. I still think UMass is one of the only places where you can take a dedicated course in wind energy engineering.”

A 23-year veteran of the NREL, Musial initiated the offshore wind energy research program in 2003, is the primary technical contact to the Department of Energy, has written many papers, reports, and articles on offshore wind energy, and has one patent.

“By most standards, offshore wind energy is still a new technology that is under development,” said Musial. “There are commercial wind farms in Europe, but we are a few years away from deploying anything here in the U.S. due to the regulatory process, cost, and the significant infrastructure needed to deploy the wind turbines. The Cape Cod Wind project will be the first one to go online in federal waters.”

Prior to his role at the NREL, Musial worked in the commercial wind energy industry in California. “My first job out of UMass was on a wind farm operated by Energy Sciences, Inc.,” noted Musial. “I was the test engineer for ES180 wind turbine unit.” Years later, he had that same unit donated to the Wind Energy Research Facility at UMass Amherst. It resides on Mt. Tom in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and serves as a demonstration, educational, and research platform for wind turbine design projects.

A mechanical engineering student at UMass Amherst, Musial specialized in all aspects of renewable energy and energy conversion with a focus on wind energy. Musial was nominated for the ACE Award by Dr. James F. Manwell of the UMass Amherst Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. "I still have a copy of his thesis," wrote Manwell. "The topic was very advanced for its time, and the thesis is still relevant today."

The Alumni Association is presenting the ACE Award at the 4th Annual Clean Energy Connections Conference and Opportunity Fair hosted by UMass Amherst on November 2 in Springfield. The theme of this year’s conference is "Building on Success" and will feature speakers who are prominent leaders in the clean-tech sector, higher education leaders, policymakers, and entrepreneurs.

Come meet Walter Musial and other clean energy leaders on November 2, 2011. Register for the Clean Energy Connections Conference today. (September 2011)