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The Evolution of a Wind Expert

October 14, 2013

Photo of Maureen Hand.

Maureen Hand knows wind. Growing up in Glenrock, Wyoming, she experienced the gusty natural resource on a regular basis. Hand was always interested in math and science, and how things worked, which made her somewhat of an anomaly among family members. That technical curiosity and a desire to use the earth’s freely available resources led her to pursue mechanical engineering specifically as it relates to renewable energy at the University of Wyoming in Laramie (Bachelor’s degree) and the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she earned both her Master’s and PhD degrees. In 1995, Maureen joined the staff at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and she’s been a key asset to the lab ever since.

Now a senior engineer with the Technology Systems and Sustainability Analysis Group in the Strategic Energy Analysis Center (SEAC), Hand focuses on developing cost models for wind energy and electric system modeling scenarios for renewable energy. She coordinated the technical analysis for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) 20% Wind by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply report and is currently contributing to a new DOE strategic wind vision study. In addition, Hand represents DOE and NREL on International Energy Agency wind activities and she was a lead author for the International Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation. She has been published in several journals, including Wind Energy, Wind Engineering, Renewable Energy, and Energy Policy.

A highlight of Hand’s career was her involvement with the 2012 Renewable Electricity Futures Study. This high-profile study explored how renewable energy could impact the future of electricity in the United States, and revealed that: “Renewable energy resources, accessed with commercially available renewable generation technologies, could adequately supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while balancing supply and demand at the hourly level.” As the study’s project lead, Hand coordinated the efforts of 110 industry professionals and experts from 35 organizations over a 3-year time frame, and was awarded an outstanding achievement award from NREL for her efforts. One award nomination stated, “She (Hand) demonstrates an outstanding ability to manage and coordinate complex multi-faceted efforts that involve diverse groups of individuals,” and “She brings respected technical integrity and attention to detail that is essential to ensuring the accuracy, completeness, and credibility of the entire assignment.”

From her first role at NREL conducting field experiments and collecting data to becoming an internationally recognized expert in wind engineering and cost analysis, Hand’s journey has been one of acquiring knowledge, critical thinking, and looking forward. And the passion she has for what she does is clear: “The wind industry has changed dramatically over the past decade and has become a mainstream electricity contributor. Many of my colleagues here at NREL have been involved with the modern wind industry since its beginning?and being a part of that continuum, of helping to build and support this industry, inspires me to be at NREL,” states Hand.