Joe Rand, an ERG student who recently won the U.S. Department of Energy's Novus Ventus Award, sits atop a turbine.
Joe Rand, an ERG student who recently won the U.S. Department of Energy’s Novus Ventus Award, sits atop a turbine.

As Joe Rand, a second-year Master’s degree student in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG), scanned the room at the Wind Exchange Summit in Orlando, Florida, on May 18, he felt privileged to be surrounded by some of his heroes in the wind and energy sector. Rand, who focuses on the social effects of energy development, was awarded the U.S. Department of Energy’s NOVUS Ventus Award for the impact that he has made on the wind industry early in his career.

“Winning this award solidified my pride in the wind industry. It made me more committed to staying in that world and trying to make a difference in responsibly accelerating deployment of wind,” Rand says.

Before enrolling at Berkeley, Rand spent several years writing a wind energy curriculum for students in K-12 and training teachers to incorporate wind energy science into the classroom. He also spent a year working for the North Carolina Wind Application Center — an outreach center that advocates for responsible wind development throughout the state.

Rand works as a Graduate Student Researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where he analyzes a nation-wide study about public acceptance of wind power. Due to scarcity of land available for wind farms, turbines are starting to move closer to civilization. Rand tries to understand any opposition that residents have to hosting turbines in their communities. The studies have revealed that some citizens find turbines noisy and visually intrusive. In the future, he also hopes to conduct a survey of 2,000 people who live within two miles of turbines. “We’ll get a baseline understanding of how those who currently live near wind turbines feel about them,” he adds.

For his master’s research, Rand is looking at the trade-offs in hydropower relicensing. Hydropower dams must undergo a relicensing process every few decades, which involves negotiation among diverse stakeholders such as environmental groups, recreational companies and hydropower owners. Rand studies the potential impact of decisions that are made during these negotiations.

After graduation, Rand hopes to use the information that he’s gleaned from surveys to accelerate wind development.

“I’d like to be in more of a consulting space where I can help communities, industries and policy makers navigate how to responsibly develop energy infrastructure,” he says.

To learn more about the Novus Ventus Award, visit the U.S. Department of Energy website.