Thomas Acker, PhD

Thomas Acker, PhD
  • Director, Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions
  • Professor of Mechanical Engineering
  • College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences



Subject-matter expertise

  • Renewable energy
  • Energy systems (wind, solar and hydropower)
  • Electrical grid integration of wind, solar and hydropower
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Aerodynamics
  • Gas dynamics
  • Combustion
  • Smart grids

Background

Since 1996, Dr. Tom Acker has been a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Northern Arizona University. He is currently the director of NAU’s Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions which seeks to educate decision makers and inform energy policy in addition to other objectives.

Dr. Acker’s research and curriculums focus on  energy systems and renewable energy, including

  • electrical grid integration of wind power
  • solar power variability and grid integration
  • modeling of wind flow in complex terrain
  • wind energy resource assessment
  • water / energy projects, including desalination
  • Native American applications of renewable energy
  • agricultural/energy projects 

From 2003-2004, Dr. Acker spent a year working as a sabbatical researcher at the National Wind Technology Center of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado, where he focused on integration issues related to wind and hydropower resources, as well as region-wide transmission planning. As the “Operating Agent” for the International Energy Agency Wind Implementing Agreement, Dr. Acker led an international effort to study wind and hydropower integration. 

Dr. Acker led an effort at NAU to establish a new Master’s of Science in Engineering degree with an emphasis in Sustainable Systems Engineering, and more recently participated in the establishment of an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program with an emphasis in Engineering Sustainable Systems and the creation of a Professional Science Masters program in Climate Science and Solutions. He has also served as faculty fellow at the National Wind Technology Center studying wind turbine aerodynamics, software engineering on climate models at the National Center of Atmospheric Research, and rocket propulsion devices.

Research

Publications

  • Acker, T, Robitaille, A., Holttinen, H., Piekutowski, M. and J.O.G. Tande (2012) “Integration of Wind and Hydropower Systems: Results of IEA Wind Task 24,” Wind Engineering, Vol. 36, No. 1, pgs. 1-18, special issue on wind and hydropower integration.
  • Acker, T, Buechler, J., Knitter, K., Conway, K., and R. Noteboom (2012) “Wind Integration Impacts on Hydropower and System Balancing Operations in the Grant County PUD,” Wind Engineering, Vol. 36, No. 1, pgs. 81-96, special issue on wind and hydropower integration.
  • Acker, T.L., (2012) “Special Editorial: IEA Task 24 on Wind and Hydropower Integration,” Wind Engineering, Vol. 4, No. 30, pgs. iii-v.
  • Acker, T., and Pete, C. (2012) “Western Wind and Solar Integration Study: Hydropower Analysis,” NREL/SP-5500-53098, prepared for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory under DE-AC36-08GO28308, pg. 194
  • Acker, T. (2011) IEA Wind Task 24 Integration of Wind and Hydropower Systems: Issues, Impacts, and Economics of Wind and Hydropower Integration. Vol. 1, pg. 167; NREL Report No. TP-5000-50181.

Awards and recognitions

  • Engineering Science Distinguished Alumni Award, Colorado State University, 2011
  • Professor of the Year Award, College of Engineering and Technology, 2001-02 Academic Year
  • Mechanical Engineering Professor of the Year, Northern Arizona University, 2000-01 Academic Year
  • Outstanding Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student, Awarded by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1992
  • Awarded the Colorado Graduate Fellowship, 1991
  • Awarded the Rockwell International Graduate Fellowship, 1989
  • Outstanding Student Achievement Award, Awarded by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1987
  • Cumulative research funding awarded at NAU: $25,500,000 (through 2009)

Special groups and committees

  • Director, NAU Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions (2011 – present)
  • President of Governing Board, Southwest Renewable Energy Institute (non-profit)
  • Operating Agent for the International Energy Agency Annex on the Integration of Wind and Hydropower Systems, on behalf of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2004 – 2011)
  • Director, NAU Sustainable Energy Solutions Group (2001-2003, 2005 – 2010)
  • Member, Journal Editorial Board, Wind Engineering (2007 – present)
  • Member, ASME, AWEA, ASES, ASHREA, ASEE, AIAA, IEEE
  • Member, Governor’s Solar Energy Advisory Council, AZ Department of Commerce (2000-2003)

Education

  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State University, December 1995
  • M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State University, May 1990
  • B.S., Engineering Science, Colorado State University, May 1987

Web pages