Kiernan will replace AWEA's senior vice president for public policy Rob Gramlich. Gramlich took on the role of interim CEO following the decision of former CEO Denise Bode to step down in December.
Kiernan will officially take on the role on 28 May. Speaking about his appointment, Kiernan said: "With wind energy building over 40% of new electrical generation in the US last year, the massive public support for more renewable energy and the recent extension of the production tax credit (PTC) by Congress and the president, we have a unique opportunity to work together to make wind energy a more integral part of our national energy portfolio."
Kiernan comes into the role at a difficult time, with the US market set for a decline in installations this year. A recent report from Make Consulting said the US will see its dominance of the Americas wind energy market eroded over the next nine years as demand in Latin America picks up steam.
Bode left AWEA on 1 January after four years in the role and just two weeks before the PTC was set to expire. Asked at the time whether Bode's imminent departure has increased the pressure on the US wind industry, AWEA's vice president of public affairs Peter Kelley said: "It's really fine — we are well-positioned for the PTC's passage."
This year, AWEA has drawn criticism from some members, with a prominent executive from utility Xcel Energy saying that his company was reviewing its AWEA membership because of the lobby group's "militant" focus on the PTC.