The University of Massachusetts Amherst


Everywhere one looked at the November 17 celebration of the Ventus Awards Gala for offshore wind energy, the UMass Amherst College of Engineering (CoE) was prominently accounted for at the Washington, D.C., affair. The highlight of the event was the presentation of the Heronemus Award for Outstanding Achievement in Offshore Wind, a prestigious honor named after the late UMass Amherst Professor of Engineering William Heronemus and presented in 2022 to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo.

Beyond the presence of Heronemus in spirit, two other CoE luminaries were there in person. Also in attendance were two specially invited guests: Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Professor James Manwell, the founding director of the UMass Wind Energy Center (WEC); and MIE alumnus Walter Musial, a principal engineer and leader of the offshore wind research platform at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 

The Ventus Awards represent the highest level of professional recognition given by the Business Network for Offshore Wind. As the network says, the awards are “celebrating the trailblazing people, companies, organizations, and work worldwide ushering in the global adoption of offshore wind energy. Winners represent the breadth of the offshore supply chain, from small businesses to multinational corporations, organizations, and educational institutions throughout the supply chain.”

The high point of the banquet was the presentation of the Heronemus Award to honor Raimondo. Ms. Raimondo was formerly the Governor of Rhode Island and was a pivotal supporter of the development of the nation’s first offshore wind energy project, off the coast of Block Island. 

As Secretary of Commerce, Raimondo is helping to formulate and implement the Biden administration’s policies promoting the expansion of the offshore wind power industry as one of the central components in the U.S. effort to combat climate change while simultaneously rejuvenating the maritime industrial sector and creating an accompanying supply chain.

The award honors the name of Heronemus, now known as the father of modern wind energy as well as the first person in the world to conceptualize offshore wind energy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He, with the help of other CoE faculty, also established the "Energy Alternatives Program" in about 1972 as the first program for renewable energy activities at UMass Amherst.

Manwell followed closely in the rather large footsteps of Heronemus by establishing the UMass Renewable Energy Research Laboratory in 1986 and the WEC in 2009, a center which has become the national leader in wind energy education, academic research, and service to government and industry.

Thus, for more than 50 years, our campus has been conducting research, education, and training in wind energy, as initiated by Heronemus and later led by Manwell, and the WEC still stands as the country's oldest continuous academic wind energy research hotbed.

Another CoE representative was Musial. Since earning his B.S. and M.S. degrees in the UMass MIE department, he has worked at the NREL for more than 31 years. In 2003, he initiated the NREL’s offshore wind energy research program, which focuses on a range of industry needs and critical technology challenges.

Musial also developed and ran NREL’s full-scale blade and drivetrain testing facilities for 15 years. Earlier, he had worked as a test engineer for five years in the commercial wind energy industry in California. He has authored more than 100 publications and holds two patents. (December 2022)

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