Wind Connection Newsletter Faculty Feature: Dr. James Manwell

James F. Manwell, ‘81CoE

James Manwell is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UMass Amherst and the Founding Director of the University’s Wind Energy Center (WEC). Professor Manwell has been working in the field of wind energy for more than 35 years, both within the United States and internationally. His research interests have focused on the assessment of the the wind resource and wind turbine external design conditions, hybrid power system design, energy storage and offshore wind energy.

He worked with the International Energy Agency’s wind energy R&D activity, Annex VII, which dealt with autonomous wind systems, and in conjunction with that activity was a contributing author to the book, Wind-Diesel Systems: A Guide to the Technology and its Implementation. He has been and continues to be a member of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s working groups which have been developing design standards for offshore wind turbines since 2001. He is an author of the textbook Wind Energy Explained: Theory, Design, and Application (Wiley, 2009) and “Offshore Wind Energy: Technology Trends, Challenges, and Risks,” in the Encyclopedia of Sustainability Science and Technology as well as numerous other publications on various aspects of wind energy.
This autobiographical excerpt was shared by Manwell, which is a “near final version” he authored from Chapter 24, “Emergence of Wind Energy: The University of Massachusetts” in the book Wind Power for the World (Singapore: Jenny Stanford Publishing, 2013), 541-554.

"I was born in New Bedford, MA, once the home port of the American whaling industry.  When I was still quite young my parents moved to Ohio, where my father became the superintendent of a reform school for juvenile delinquents.  I lived on the grounds of that school until I was 18.  The boys at the school were all from Cleveland. Nearly all of them came from poor families which had migrated to northern Ohio to seek work in its once large industrial sector.  The contrast between the reform school and the surrounding town was always inescapable.  Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s included a mélange of activities from the mundane to the eye-opening: wilderness training with the Boy Scouts; a fascination with math, science, languages and history; long canoe trips on the lakes and rivers of Ontario and Maine; a road trip to Alaska, two weeks in Germany; a year as an exchange student in an English boarding school; a two-month hitch-hiking adventure from London to Istanbul, and a returning ship to the US to enter Amherst College just as the Vietnam War was escalating.  My college experience (which coincidentally was in the same town as UMass) and its aftermath were no less eventful and by the mid 1970’s I was pondering what to do next.  The emerging issues of international realignment, nuclear power, environmental destruction and oil embargoes all led me in the same direction: a new vision was needed: equitable, international, rational, and sustainable (i.e. based on solar energy).  It was at that point that I met Bill Heronemus, and it became apparent that one way to help realize that vision was for me to begin studying engineering.  As a result, I joined the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering at UMass as a graduate student in 1976 and studied there until I completed my Ph.D. in 1981...
Once I finished my Ph.D., it seemed to me that the most interesting and useful thing I could do would be to continue and expand the renewable energy education and research program at UMass that Bill Heronemus had started, so that is what I set out to do.  This whole endeavor has had many twists and turns over the last 30 years, but it has resulted in opportunities for many students to learn about wind energy and to undertake research that had real significance."