One of the inaugural Ventus Awards presented by the Business Network for Offshore Wind (BNOW) on November 18 during its first annual Ventus Awards Gala was named for William Heronemus.
The late U.S. Navy captain, who was a professor in what are now the Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Departments, is known famously as “the father of wind energy,” “the captain,” and similar honorary names.
The Ventus Awards are designed to honor contributions and facets of the offshore wind industry that allow us to harness offshore wind and better the lives of those around us through clean energy, a safer environment, and innovative jobs.
Not only is one Ventus Award named for Heronemus, but he was also posthumously awarded the first of the awards. It was accepted by his daughters, Marcia Heronemus-Pate and Ellen Bryan.
Bill Heronemus: The Father of Modern Windpower produced by BNOW:
In preparation for the award ceremony, BNOW representatives visited the UMass campus in early November and interviewed Charles “Sandy” Butterfield (a UMass alumnus and former student and disciple of Heronemus), as well as James Manwell, the founding director of the UMass Amherst Wind Energy Center, one of the judges for the Ventus Awards, and a collaborator with Heronemus on a number of projects.
According to Manwell, “Offshore wind energy as a serious concept began at UMass Amherst in the early 1970s with the vision of Professor William Heronemus of the Ocean Engineering Program (then a part of the Department of Civil Engineering).”
As Manwell told BNOW, “Heronemus was the ‘Captain’ in every sense of the word, and a visionary, but also practical. He wanted to make sure that his concepts were technically realistic and realizable.”
According to a bio of Heronemus by Forrest “Woody” Stoddard, Heronemus "is known the world over as the ‘father of modern windpower’ and the inventor of the wind turbine array, windship, wind furnace, and offshore hydrogen flotilla ideas. He is generally credited with the invention of the terms ‘windfarm,’ ‘windshaft,’ and ‘windsmith’ in wide use today.”
According to Stoddard, all the present researchers in wind turbines owe the grasp of the fundamentals to the work of Heronemus during the 1970s, when he and his cadre published numerous reports on windpower.
Heronemus was also one of the founders of U.S. Windpower, which installed the world’s first wind farms and then became the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines. U.S. Windpower later became Kenetech Windpower, and its technology was eventually acquired by GE Renewable Energy, a major manufacturer of wind turbines today.
“Wind turbine engineers the world over know of Bill’s work,” wrote Stoddard, “and quietly credit him with the original plan and vision, because most of us knew that he steadfastly avoided any public adulation or praise for his work, which he considered just to be ‘plain old common sense.’ Bill Heronemus was an engineer’s engineer. He was humble and would have been horrified and embarrassed to see his life in print like this. But he gave us a vision and a legacy for our own dreams and changed many lives.”
Heronemus was born on April 16, 1920, and died on November 2, 2002. For more information on Heronemus and his legacy, see the article "E&E News Pays Homage to Heronemus and the Enormous Impact of UMass on Wind Energy."