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Partnership Opportunity for Advanced Wind Turbine Blade Test Facility Progresses

March 9, 2007

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced today that applications from partnerships in Massachusetts and Texas—to design, construct and operate an advanced wind turbine blade test facility—will move on to a final competitive round. The finalist will be awarded a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with NREL in mid-2007.

Under the CRADA, DOE/NREL will provide $2 million in capital equipment to the blade test facility in addition to technical assistance. The estimated capital cost of the facility is $9-12 million.

A total of six applications were received from partnerships in Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia, for the CRADA opportunity that was announced May 2006. The applications were scored by a technical panel comprised of DOE National Laboratory experts in conjunction with input from DOE Wind Program experts and wind industry representatives.

Criteria used for selection included:

  • The overall likelihood that the business plan would expeditiously result in a blade test facility as determined by factors such as the operating model, applicant qualifications, accreditation plans, letters of commitment, facility expansion opportunities, and the amount of non-DOE resources and funds to develop the blade test facility; and

  • The degree to which the proposed facility provided equitable access rights and intellectual property protection to wind industry members outside the partnership.

Criteria and procedures for the next round of competition are being finalized with input from technical and managerial staff, technology transfer staff, DOE, and industry stakeholders. Each applicant will be required to finalize proposal details such as site selection, financial commitments, and business and operating models.

Background

On May 25, 2006, on behalf of the Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) partnership opportunity to build an advanced wind turbine blade test facility. The window for applications closed on November 13, 2006.

The CRADA sought government, private, or non-profit partners to design, construct, and assist in operating one or more wind turbine blade test facilities capable of testing blades up to at least 70 m (230 ft) in length. The opportunity was created to support the U.S. wind industry's development and the deployment of large wind turbines by providing testing capabilities of sufficient size and availability at a reasonable cost to the users.

Blade testing is required to meet wind turbine design standards, reduce machine cost, and reduce the technical and financial risk of deploying mass-produced wind turbine models. Rapid growth in wind turbine size over the past two decades has outstripped the existing capabilities of NREL's National Wind Technology Center, which operates the only blade test facility in North America capable of performing full-scale testing of megawatt-scale wind turbine blades.

Massachusetts

The partners submitting this application include the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), University of Massachusetts (UMass), and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Development (EOED). MTC is the state's quasi-public agency focused on the development of the renewable energy sector. It administers the Renewable Energy Trust (RET). The University of Massachusetts (Amherst) through its Renewable Energy Research Laboratory (RERL) is the premier graduate wind engineering program in the US. The Executive Office of Economic Development (EOED) is the state's main office focused on economic growth in the Commonwealth and reports directly to the Governor. The Division of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) are part of EOED. DOER's mission is to implement the state's energy policies. MOBD is the state's business development agency.

Texas

Lone Star Wind Alliance — led by the University of Houston and the Texas General Land Office — possesses world-leading research centers on large composite structures, wind engineering, electromechanical controls and power electronics. The Alliance also includes Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, University of Texas–Austin, West Texas A&M University, Montana State University, Stanford University, New Mexico State University, Old Dominion University and the Houston Advanced Research Center.

For more information, please contact Jason Cotrell, NREL, (303) 384-7056, or Chris Kielich, DOE Public Affairs, (202) 586-0581.