University of Massachusetts Amherst

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MIE Alum Working as Incubator for Renewable Energy

Patrick Quinlan, a 1982 graduate of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and a former associate director for the UMass Wind Energy Center, now makes his living establishing sustainable start-up energy companies in Massachusetts. He is the founder of Celadon Innovation, providing consulting services and renewable energy technology development that directly improves the lives of individuals, families, farms, and communities. Quinlan explains that “Celadon’s vision is the widespread utilization of sustainable practices and technologies that provide lasting energy independence for homes, farms, and communities. A strong part of that vision for me is accessibility to the benefits of sustainable technologies for everyone.”

At Celadon, Quinlan has recently established two spin-off companies that have been faring very well in business plan and accelerator competitions lately. One is SolaBlock, a new approach to solar electric buildings, bringing the building envelope into renewable energy production with solar photovoltaic-clad concrete block. SolaBlock combines the structural benefits of concrete block and the energy benefits of solar photovoltaics.

SolaBlock made it to the top 25 semi-finalists (out of 150 nationally) in the Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization competition in March. Quinlan also entered SolaBlock in the CleanTech Open accelerator competition and was selected as a regional semi-finalist, allowing SolaBlock to be entered into the national competition. CleanTech is a very aggressive accelerator program with possible winnings up to $110,000 awarded in the fall.

The other Celadon spin-off is Black Island Wind Turbines, billing itself as “the toughest wind turbines on the planet – reliable for over a decade in Antarctica in 200+mph marine environments.” Black Island has made it through the first two rounds of the Mass Challenge competition, competing against more than 1,200 entries initially and making it to the current list of 125 semi-finalists.

Those impressive competition results aren’t too surprising, considering Quinlan’s UMass roots in the MIE department and his impressive engineering credentials in sustainable energy.

Here, he worked alongside Professors James Manwell and Jon McGowan, authors of the most widely used engineering text on wind turbine engineering, Wind Energy Explained. Quinlan was on the team of engineers during the mid-1970s who deployed the UMass WF-1 wind turbine, one of the world’s most historically significant turbines. Its groundbreaking design was one of the very first to feature many of the common elements of modern utility-scale wind turbines and is now housed at the Smithsonian Institution.

In fact, the Smithsonian also houses two other inventions that Quinlan has been associated with, both while working as an engineer for Dr. Paul MacCready at AeroVironment Inc. in Monrovia, California. One is the pioneering 1997 GM EV1 electric car, and the other is the Quetzocoatlus Northropi (QN) robotic flying pterodactyl, one of the first robotic aircraft to fly using both wing-flapping and bio-mimicry-based control of flight surfaces and center-of-gravity.

With engineering bloodlines like those, it’s no wonder that Quinlan is earning a reputation as a an innovator of clean, green energy products and companies. (June 2012)