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Robert Cleaves

Wesleyan University & Boston College – CEO Biomass Power Association



You know the advice is sincere when someone says they would tell their own children to do the same. Bob Cleaves encouraged kids to “Find something that they are passionate about and study it in school.” Cleaves believes establishing a skill set that best matches your personality and attributes will lead to the most rewarding career. “Whether this skill set is composed of science, advocacy, finance, or external affairs, now that is up to you – you have a wide range of renewable energy technologies to choose from,” he said. Cleaves decided to master biomass and is extremely happy with his decision.

Bob Cleaves did not know that he wanted to go into biomass energy originally. He started off his college career at Wesleyan University studying anthropology. He went on to Boston College after Wesleyan to study law, and then began a career as a federal prosecutor soon after. However, his federal prosecuting career eventually shifted to environmental affairs. He enjoyed the crosscurrents of environmental law and energy law, so much so that he started to research business opportunities in renewable energy.

In 1999, Cleaves left law to pursue a career in renewable energy technologies. Soon after he was hired by a subsidiary of Waste Management called Wheelabrator. Principally, this was a waste-to-energy company, but it also owned a large number of biomass facilities. It was during Cleaves’ time at Wheelabrator that he became familiar with renewable energy policies. Up until this point, Cleaves hadn’t been as familiar with renewable energy technologies, but that did not hold him back. He was increasingly intrigued by the many innovative forms of renewable energy, especially the energy resulting from biomass conversion.

Today, Bob is the president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. When he first started, he was working on renewable energy tax incentives because there was a strong need to develop the biomass industry. However, since then things have changed; the association has forty members across twenty states, which collectively represents over 2,000 MW of installed capacity.

Bob loves his job at Biomass Power Association; specifically, the policy and advocacy, which he sees as his right hand during decision making. Even though he did not study biomass power generation in college, this did not mean that he could not become an expert later in life. Today, Bob is a biomass power generation specialist and can tell you anything you need to know about the utilization of agricultural residues for power generation purposes. He took a passion and turned it in to a career, which as he said, “is the best feeling.”

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