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News Release: Large Wind Turbine Blade Test Facilities to be in Mass., Texas

June 25, 2007

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will work with consortiums from Texas and Massachusetts to design, build and operate new facilities to test the next generation of giant wind turbine blades. The Department of Energy (DOE) announced the blade test facility cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) today.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Partnership and the Lone Star Wind Alliance in Texas were chosen to build facilities to test large wind turbine blades with an ultimate goal of testing blades up to 330 ft. (100m) in length. 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 the NREL's National Wind Technology Center, which operates the only facility in North America capable of full-scale testing of megawatt-size wind turbine blades.

NREL will continue testing blades at its facility in Colorado.

Transportation issues were key to deciding to build the new blade test facilities near waterways.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Partnership proposes to build a test facility at the Boston Autoport in Boston Harbor in 2009. The Boston Autoport provides a quickly developable site on the East Coast featuring proximity to substantial offshore wind resources, truck access, a rail spur and a 1,200-foot (365m) dock for transporting blades from ocean going vessels.

The site proposed by the Lone Star Wind Alliance in Ingleside, Texas, has the potential to dramatically lower transportation costs. It is near primary ship routes along the Gulf Coast and boasts excellent access to developing wind energy markets in Texas and the Midwest. 

The agreements will be executed by NREL on behalf of the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. DOE/NREL will provide each of the test facilities up to $2 million in capital equipment and technical assistance for development and operation. The total capital cost of each facility has been estimated at $9 to $12 million.

Six applications for the CRADA opportunity were received from partnerships based in Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. The applications were reviewed by a technical panel of DOE national laboratory experts and wind industry representatives.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. R&D programs at NREL include efforts in solar energy, fuels and electricity from biomass, advanced transportation, energy analysis, basic energy science, energy use in buildings, hydrogen and fuels cells, and wind energy. NREL is operated by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Partnership is primarily represented by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), the University of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA). The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are supporting partners. The MTC is the state's quasi-public agency focused on the development of the renewable energy sector and administers the States Renewable Energy Trust. The University of Massachusetts (Amherst) is one of the leading research universities in the country with the oldest and most comprehensive university wind energy engineering laboratory and graduate engineering program. The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development is the state's main office focused on economic growth in the Commonwealth. A core mission of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is to promote and implement the development of a clean energy cluster in Massachusetts.

The Texas Lone Star Wind Alliance is managed by the University of Houston which is a leading materials university that has one of the largest nationally recognized composites research programs in the country. The Alliance consists of the Texas General Land Office, State Energy Conservation Office, Texas Workforce Commission, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Austin, West Texas A&M University, Montana State University, Stanford University, New Mexico State University, Old Dominion University, BP, DOW, Huntsman, and Shell Wind.

—George Douglas