DOE Awards $4 Million to Two Wind Turbine Blade Test Facilities

June 25, 2007

DOE announced on June 25th that it will invest up to $4 million to develop large-scale wind blade test facilities in both Boston, Massachusetts, and Ingleside, Texas, near Corpus Christi. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Partnership and the Lone Star Wind Alliance will each receive up to $2 million in test equipment to develop the facilities. The two consortia will negotiate cooperative research and develop agreements with DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to design, build, and operate the new facilities, which are expected to be operational in 2009. The ultimate goal of the testing facilities is to test blades up to 330 feet long.

Photo within a large warehouse-like building where a long wind turbine blade lies horizontally, with its base fixed to a mounting device. Both floor-mounted and crane-mounted devices are applying opposing forces along the length of the blade.

Although NREL's test facility for wind turbine blades, shown here, will remain in operation, the two new test facilities will be able to handle longer wind turbine blades.
Credit: Warren Gretz

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 outgrown 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. According to NREL, a key factor in choosing the new sites was their access to waterways: the Boston site is on the Boston Harbor, while the Ingleside site has access to the Gulf of Mexico.

The total investment for each facility will total about $20 million. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Partnership has pledged $13 million in grants and loans for construction and startup costs, and has established reserve funding of $5 million for future blade design research and testing. The Lone Star Wind Alliance has pledged approximately $18 million from state and private sources for initial capital and startup costs. See the press releases from DOE and NREL.