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DOE/NREL/MASSCEC Develop New Blade Test Facility

WTTC Blade Test Facility

Artist rendering of new blade test facility.

January 12, 2010

A cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) was formed between NREL and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MASSCEC) to produce the nation’s largest wind turbine blade testing facility. In addition to financially supporting this CRADA, DOE provided American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds of $25 million for the creation of the Wind Technology Testing Center (WTTC), which will run tests on wind turbine blades up to 90 meters in length.

Officials broke ground on December 1 for the WTTC, which is located in Boston, Massachusetts. The center will test blades for structural integrity and durability. Blade testing methodologies, based on the experience of NWTC, will enable the new center to help the wind industry develop the next generation of wind turbine technologies.

“NREL functions as an expert partner providing 30 years of blade testing experience and leveraging our knowledge to make the new facility a success,” explained NREL’s Derek Berry, Engineering Supervisor at the new site.

NWTC researchers assisted MASSCEC with specifications for the new facility and provided NREL staff to assist in the design and operation of the facility. In addition,the NWTC is in the process of designing and procuring the static and fatigue blade test systems for WTTC based on designs developed for blade testing at the NWTC.

Static tests pull a blade in one direction to find its breaking point while fatigue tests simulate wear and tear on the blade, similar to repeatedly bending a paperclip back and forth. The length of turbine blades has grown to capture more energy — four times more energy is captured with each doubling of blade length. Current turbine blades in production have grown to 62m long. The NWTC is limited to 50m blade tests. By the end of 2010, completion of the long industrial type building at WTTC will provide the nation’s wind turbine manufacturers with commercial blade certification and reliability testing. The facility will be capable of testing several blades simultaneously. WTTC’s location at an existing deep water port facilitates blade transport. WTTC will provide a critical component in the nation’s wind energy program.