College of Engineering Announces $2.5 Million New Endowed Chair in Renewable Energy

Comes from state Department of Energy Resources

AMHERST, Mass. – The College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs have announced creation of a new endowed chair in renewable energy that will be funded with $2.5 million from the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER).             

Kumble R. Subbaswamy, UMass Amherst chancellor, says, “Creating a new high-profile professorship in renewable energy on the UMass Amherst campus clearly demonstrates our commitment to advancing knowledge of renewable energy and sustainability. The linkage with the key state agency that promotes policies in this area for the whole Commonwealth also places UMass Amherst on the front lines of implementing changes that will have lasting and wide-ranging effects. This is an excellent partnership between our College of Engineering and the state government and it will provide benefits far into the future.”

EEA Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett says, “This funding builds on the Patrick Administration’s strategic investments in innovation, education and infrastructure, not just for today, but for generations to come. The chair will be at the forefront of research in renewable energy innovation, leading to technologies that help the Commonwealth cut our energy use, create jobs and protect the environment.” 

Tim Anderson, dean of the College of Engineering, says he intends to conduct a national search for a pre-eminent scholar to serve as the first holder of the renewable energy chair beginning in the fall of 2015. “There has been tremendous progress in renewable energy during the past 10 years,” Anderson says. “The endowed chair will ensure that the College of Engineering stays at the frontier of energy research.”

“We are pleased to partner again with the University of Massachusetts to shepherd new ideas in renewable energy,” said DOER Acting Commissioner Meg Lusardi. “It is critical that we continue to foster growth in the industry, especially at our academic institutions because the students of today are our clean energy leaders of tomorrow.”

Funding for the chair comes from Alternative Compliance Payments through DOER. ACP funds are paid by electric retail suppliers if they have insufficient Renewable or Alternative Energy Certificates to meet their compliance obligations under the Renewable and Alternative Portfolio Standard programs. These funds are used by DOER to further support the development of renewable or alternative energy in the Commonwealth.

Anderson says, “The college is committed to continuing its more than 40-year leadership in renewable energy education and research. This endowed chair will not only underpin our excellence in energy research, but importantly it will provide a permanent interface between UMass Amherst and the DOER.” An official from the DOER will serve on the search committees for the faculty members who hold this endowed chair.

The faculty member chosen will serve a five-year, non-renewable term in the College of Engineering and the home of the first hire will be in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, which has a long history of excellence, particularly in the field of wind energy. It was there that the Wind Furnace 1 (WF-1) was built, marking the beginning of the modern wind-electric era. The WF-1 is now housed in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The holder of the chair will develop close working relationships with state agencies responsible for renewable energy as well as conduct research in the field.

The endowment fund will be held by the University of Massachusetts Foundation and administered jointly by the university and the foundation. Income from the fund will be used to support part of the salary for the professor, funding for graduate students, equipment and other costs of a program of research in renewable energy.

This chair is also eligible for the University Matching Fund Program for Endowed Chairs and Professorships that allows UMass Amherst to match the anticipated annual payout from the endowment fund.