Tom Gray, wind energy and AWEA pioneer, honored with Board Resolution at Fall Symposium

November 8, 2013

Author(s): Carl Levesque

This time around, he says he’s “really retiring.” And so this time around, the AWEA Board of Directors had no choice but to accept that fact—and do so with a resolution.

Tom Gray, an industry veteran of over 35 years and a wind power expert who has been associated with AWEA since the early years of the association's existence, recently told leadership that, at last, it’s time for him to step aside, effective at year’s end, so that he can enjoy pursuing his many interests. Gray had officially retired a few years ago, although since then he still has served the industry on practically a full-time basis, or so it seemed. Most recently, he has been working as a communications consultant for AWEA, putting his eloquent and powerful pen to use on AWEA’s blog and having a hand in the development of messaging and information sharing that spanned across virtually all wind energy topics and AWEA Public Affairs communications needs.

That, of course, was only the latest stop in a storied career. Joining the organization in 1980, he led AWEA as its Executive Director between 1981 and 1989. One weekly duty of Gray’s illustrates both his dedication to the industry and the grassroots history of both AWEA and wind energy: For years, Gray spent long Fridays writing this very Wind Energy Weekly industry newsletter—and then stuffing paper copies of the publication into envelopes before mailing it out himself.

In addition to serving in the Executive Director role, Gray had a lengthy stint in the discipline that would become his expertise alongside wind energy itself, as Director of Communications. Long ago, Gray became highly skilled and adept in the niche of wind energy communications largely because he carried, alongside his top verbal skills, a massive wind-energy knowledge base on virtually any topic—from siting and wildlife to tax credits and cost—that made his eloquent prose weighty with hard data and fact-based information.

As a result, when Gray retired from the internal AWEA staff a few years ago, AWEA flat-out refused to part with his unparalleled skill set, which collectively comprises a combination of knowledge and communications perhaps unrivaled in the industry. Thus, his role morphed once more, this time into “Wind Energy Communications Consultant” for AWEA. His lengthy history with the industry also has provided invaluable perspective and institutional knowledge for an industry that has changed rapidly through the years, forging ahead with little chance to look back.

“Tom Gray is a one-man brain trust for U.S. wind energy,” said Peter Kelley, AWEA Vice President of Public Affairs. “Ever since he left the full-time staff we've tried to give him the biggest megaphone we can to get his insights out to more people. I expect we'll continue to hear from him regularly, and I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say.”

In response to the news of Gray’s retirement, an expressive show of appreciation came via an AWEA Board of Directors Resolution, passed and publicly shared at AWEA’s Wind Energy Fall Symposium this week.

Board Member Karen Conover shared the Resolution with the appreciative Fall Symposium audience and added a few remarks of her own. “There are many stories about Tom, but I’ll just share a couple with you,” she said. “Yes, it is true, Tom at one critical moment in the early years used his personal credit card to cover bills for AWEA, when we were just getting started.” She continued with such anecdotes, before concluding, “Also—it is the AWEA staff’s intention to name one of the conference rooms at AWEA headquarters after you, Tom. Doesn’t Tom Gray Tower have a ring to it?”

As with Conover’s remarks, the Board Resolution couldn’t possibly share every anecdote or highlight all of Gray’s salient attributes such as his sense of humor—usually dry, occasionally quirky, often steeped in the absurd. (And, like his wind energy writing, always memorable.) The Resolution does, however, share still more telling details of Gray’s storied career and acknowledge the level of his contribution:



 Tom Gray has made lasting contributions to the incubation and dramatic expansion of U.S. wind energy and the American Wind Energy Association for over 35 years, from: his work on Capitol Hill and role in developing the Wind Energy Systems Act of 1980; to his service to our association ever since, whether as staff member or consultant, including as Executive Director from 1981 to 1989, during which he was named AWEA’s Wind Energy Man of the Year; for 15 years as Communications Director and then Deputy Executive Director, starting in 1994, during which the U.S. Department of Energy honored him as a Wind Power Pioneer; as the town crier and conscience of the industry, with his frequent posts on the AWEA blog, Into the Wind, related social media work, and assembly of the weekly report to the Board of Directors; and as friend and coach to a new generation of AWEA staff members:



The Board of Directors of AWEA expresses the industry’s everlasting gratitude to Tom for his vision, relentless energy, and high principles, and for sticking around long enough to share them with the rest of us; wishes him well in his retirement, to the extent that he can ever sit still long enough to enjoy it; and looks forward to tempting him out of it, whenever his long experience and wise counsel are needed by our industry and our cause, which they always will be.

Perhaps just this once, Tom Gray couldn’t have written it better himself.