Monica McDaniel has been keeping an eye on the weather since she was a child.
Now the senior manager for Pattern Energy’s meteorological team, Monica, is busy monitoring wind flow patterns for future project developments.
“My team takes care of all of the analysis, which includes understanding the wind flow at the site and creating a layout for where the turbines should be placed. Based on the layout, the wind flow, and the particular turbine we’ve selected, we can determine the annual average production for the site,” she explains.
The team is working on about 20 projects across North America, including a significant project in New Mexico.
“Our SunZia Wind project is probably the size of ten typical-sized projects in one. It will be the largest single-phase project in the western hemisphere once it’s built out, with over 1,000 turbines. It’ll be right next to our current mega-project, Western Spirit, which is a third of the size of what SunZia is going to be,” Monica says.
“The one that I’m working on is our mega SunZia Wind project. It’s probably the size of ten typical-sized projects in one. It will be the largest single-phase project in the Western Hemisphere once it’s built out, with over 1,000 turbines. It’ll be right next to our current mega project Western Spirit which is a third of the size of what SunZia is going to be,” Monica says.
A lot goes into the development phase, including gathering meteorological data.
“We put out meteorological towers at the site to measure the wind speed, direction, temperature, pressure—all of these climatic conditions at the site. We place several at the site to get an idea of the variations of the wind flow. We try to have a couple of years to ten years of site data. Then we use historical data to predict what the weather patterns will be like at each location for the life of the project,” she says.
An Early Interest in Weather
Before working for Pattern Energy, Monica says she was always drawn to the weather.
“Growing up, I always had a passion for meteorology and earth sciences in general,” she says. “I have a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Texas at Austin. After that, I transferred to the University of Houston, which had just started a new Atmospheric Science program. There I got my master’s focused on air pollution meteorology.”
She originally wanted to do the weather forecast on the news but found she was looking for something more complex.
“It was very exciting to learn how weather influences so much of people’s lives as a kid,” she says. “I would be glued to the TV when the news would come on and when meteorologists would give the weather forecast. So I thought that’s what I wanted to do, and I actually did an internship in college at the local NBC station in Houston, but it wasn’t as scientific as I expected.”
“I was also passionate about environmentalism, and that’s what drew me to Pattern Energy,” she explains.
Being An Everyday Superhero
Monica’s passion for the environment, renewable energy, and science has come full circle. Now she’s inspiring young girls to learn more about careers in the energy sector.
She was recently featured as one of 34 women in the children’s book, Everyday Superheroes: Women in Energy Careers, written by Erin Twamley and Joshua Sneideman.
The book “features women who have made it their careers to help power our planet. I want to break the bias in energy and inspire girls to get into energy. Anything I can do to help motivate the next generation of women in STEM,” she explains.
This book follows the release of Twamley’s first book in the series, Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers, which highlights women working in science, technology, engineering, or math.Everyday Superheroes: Women in Energy Careers can be found on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
The book asks questions like, “How many switches do you flip in a day?” and “How many devices do you plug in?” and showcases women working in the energy sector.
I am an Energy Superhero! I am honored to be one of the 34 Energy Superheroes –women featured in this new children’s book, “Everyday Superheroes: Women in Energy Careers” written by Erin Twamley and Joshua Sneideman and co-authored by Katie Mehnert and illustrated by Adua Hernandez. It features diverse women who have made it their careers to help power our planet. I want to #breakthebias in energy and inspire girls to get into energy. The book will be available in July, and you can pre-order it now through ALLYEnergyInc.
Weather & Wine
Outside of work, Monica enjoys sampling wine around the world.
“I’m a big wine fan. I make a lot of vineyard trips to Napa and the Champagne region of France. I’ve also taken some classes in Viticulture—I love sampling and learning about wine,” she says.
Weather might not come to mind when sipping a glass of wine, but Monica says they’re directly related.
“Wine ties directly into weather because there are only certain climates where you can grow these grapes, and the taste of the grape is directly tied to the climate you have. If it’s really hot you get more sugar, making it more alcoholic, and sometimes it’s more tropical tasting. In drier climates, the grapes have a more acidic, tart flavor. The type of soil also plays a factor,” Monica says.
Vineyards have even asked for her expertise on forecasts about future climates and how global warming will affect their grapes.
Love for Ireland
Ireland is one of Monica’s favorite places to travel.
“My husband and I went to Ireland on our honeymoon seven years ago and went back yearly since we fell in love with the people, the country, and the culture. We’ve been back every year except during the pandemic, but we were there in 2020 when the pandemic hit,” she says.
The reason why they chose Ireland goes back to their wedding.
“My husband’s roots are in Ireland and Scotland. My background is Indian, and I’m a first-generation American. We decided to do a traditional Indian wedding, but the honeymoon in Ireland so that he could explore his heritage,” Monica explains.
Chasing the wind over an entire continent is a traveler’s work, so Monica’s love for travel is a good match for Pattern Energy. She’s excited to see what the future of renewable energy brings!