William A. (Bill) Vachon


William A. (Bill) Vachon, a wind energy expert and well-known resident of Manchester-by-the-Sea, died in late September.

A native of Massachusetts, Vachon was born in Boston in 1941 and raised in Newton.  He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned three degrees in mechanical engineering: a bachelor’s of science in 1963, a master’s of science in 1965, and a Mechanical

Engineering (M.E.) degree (somewhat like a Ph.D.) in 1969.  At MIT, he exceeded as captain of the hockey team.

After earning his master’s degree, he went to work as a project manager for C.S. Draper Laboratory, in Cambridge, where he designed, built, and tested instruments used in space, the lunar environment, and the deep ocean.  One instrument he helped build to measure gravity flew on Apollo 17, in 1992, and remains on the moon.  A backup version is on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1977 Vachon moved to Arthur D. Little, a large international consulting firm, as a senior consultant.  There he began work on solar and wind energy, including leadership of a project that tracked the performance of research wind turbines for the Electric Power Research Institute.

In 1984 he founded his own alternative energy consulting firm, William A. Vachon Associates, which specialized in the technical and economic assessment of wind energy systems and projects for electric utilities and investors. He also did research for Sandia National Laboratories, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, to determine ways to control wind turbines to maximize energy production while minimizing damage from structural fatigue.

Vachon won several design awards for his work and authored or coauthored more than 70 technical reports and papers, as well as chapters in books.  He was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Marine Technology Society, and the American Solar Energy Society and was elected to the Society of Sigma Xi, a research honorary society.  He served for a decade as associate editor of Solar Energy, where he coordinated the review of papers on wind energy.

In 1969, Vachon married Madonna (Donna) Mary Joynt, a teacher in Boston who grew up in Iowa and Wisconsin.  Together they had two children, Christyne Jennifer and Ryan William, who they raised in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Bill was active in town government, serving as a member of both the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.  He also served as President of the Manchester-Essex Conservation Trust, was active in the Lions Club, and later in life was very active in the Unitarian-Universalist Church in neighboring Essex.

Nationally, Bill belonged to liberal and environmental organizations such as Common Cause, the Audubon Society, and the Council for a Livable World.  He had many friends in and around Manchester, where he was often seen zipping around town on his mountain bike.  A wine aficionado, he liked nothing better than to share a good bottle of red wine with his friends, neighbors, or family members.

Bill’s other loves were hiking in the White Mountains and sharing his lakefront cottage in Maine with friends and family.  He leaves behind beloved nieces and nephews, as well as his daughter Christyne Vachon and her husband David Osborne, of Gloucester, and his son Ryan Vachon and his wife Susan Vachon.

A remote memorial service, on Zoom, will be held by the First Universalist Church of Essex on Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. (EST).  To join in the service please register at our guest book here.  After you sign into the quest book and provide your email address, you will receive a link to join the service on Zoom.  In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to either The Manchester Essex Conservation Trust  or First Universalist Church in Essex.  

william a. (bill) vachon, william a. bill, solar energy, american solar energy society, international association of lions clubs, vachon william a. bill vachon, electric power research institute, the vachon brothers, reginald i. vachon, manchester, marine technology society, first universalist church, unitarian-universalist church, council for a livable world, christyne jennifer, manchester-essex conservation trust, christyne vachon, ryan vachon, arthur d. little, u.s. department of energy, william a. vachon associates, ryan william, donna mary joynt, david osborne, first universalist church of essex, massachusetts institute of technology, madonna (donna) mary joynt