Posted on October 3, 2017

Remembering Margaret Mooney, PG&E Trailblazer, Pioneer

By Tracy Correa Lopez

Margaret Mooney, one of the first female meteorologists in the nation and a PG&E employee for nearly 30 years, has passed away.

Mooney was 88 years old and a resident of the seaside city of Carlsbad, near San Diego, where she lived out her retirement.

Margaret Mooney played a critical role in helping prepare for the opening of PG&E's Diablo Canyon Power Plant. (Currents archive photo.)

Mooney worked for PG&E from 1966 to 1994, much of the time overseeing an all-male meteorology department. She earned the respect of her team for her work in cloud seeding, wind energy and helping PG&E prepare for opening Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

Despite all of her accomplishments, she remained humble and reserved.

“I never considered I was doing anything except my job,” said Mooney, when Currents interviewed her two years ago.

In 2015, PG&E named one of its employee awards after Mooney. The Margaret Mooney Award for Innovation is one of several awards bestowed on employees each year.

In a video interview about the award, she said she was surprised by the recognition:  “The innovation, I think, is PG&E hiring me.”

Karen Austin, senior vice president and chief information officer at PG&E, said naming the company’s innovation award after Mooney was fitting and deserved.

“She blazed a trail uncommon for women of her day as one of the first female meteorologists in the nation. I’m terribly sad to hear of her passing, and grateful for any small role we’ve played in helping to keep her legacy alive,” said Austin.

Mooney was also one of the first meteorologists at a major energy company.

She developed an interest in meteorology when she was in the U.S. Air Force then, studied at UCLA — often the only woman in her classes. After graduating, she worked at the Army’s biological and chemical weapons testing facility in Dugway, Utah, where her meteorology skills were in demand. She later joined PG&E’s in-house meteorology team, working her way up to director.

At her home in Carlsbad two years ago, PG&E presented Margaret Mooney with a replica of the new employee innovation award named in her honor.

Part of her work at Diablo Canyon included studying wind patterns. As such, it wasn’t uncommon for her to climb the weather tower at Diablo Canyon to fix problems with the meteorology instruments about 25 feet off the ground (the tower was 250 feet).

“I guess my favorite work was probably at Diablo Canyon because I spent so much time there. You know starting right from the beginning and taking it up to where we had a license was a very satisfying feeling,” said Mooney.

She was also a guiding force behind some of the industry’s first wind turbines, pushed for data innovation and a leader in her field.

Woodrow “Woody” Whitlatch, a former PG&E meteorologist who was hired by Mooney in 1978, said she definitely left her mark.

“She was certainly ahead of her time as far as women achieving scientific status in an industry, but she never thought she was ahead of her time. I think she was a supremely confident person. She just saw a job and she could do it,” said  Whitlatch.

Despite all this, Mooney never took credit for helping to crack the glass ceiling.

“People need to realize that a lot of things women can do just as well as a man can. And I don’t think there’s really any limit,” she said.

Email Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com

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