There won’t be a 450-foot-tall windmill spinning over Charlestown after all – but there could be a new 300-foot long, four-story building on a neighborhood wharf for testing wind turbine blades.
Based on reports from top state and city officials, the Globe reported yesterday that Governor Mitt Romney’s administration was looking at a Massachusetts Port Authority pier for a potential US Energy Department wind turbine testing facility, including a tower for turbines with blades spinning up to 450 feet above the ground.
In fact, the project would only involve a building 300 feet long and 50 feet high where turbine blades up to 230 feet long would be turned on their sides and subjected to engineering and strength tests.
The state’s application to the Energy Department does say the site, which is currently used for ships to unload cars and trucks, could host a wind speed testing tower up to 330 feet high. But that would be optional, and it would have only small test blades spinning on it, not gigantic 230-footers that resemble airplane propellers.
“There is no proposal whatsoever to install a turbine at that location, and the turbine blades would never be tested vertically,” said Anthony L. Rogers , director of research and technology for the University of Massachusetts Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is working on the project along with the state Renewable Energy Trust and Romney energy aides. “It would be, from the outside, a large-ish industrial building, but it need not be ugly in any way, shape, or form.”
An aide to state Economic Affairs Secretary Ranch Kimball , Wyndham Lewis, said Kimball “had a miscommunication” in how he described the facility. Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s top environmental aide, James W. Hunt III , who also described the proposal Tuesday as involving a spinning turbine, said yesterday: “The facility is horizontal.”
Massachusetts officials have also proposed a site on New Bedford Harbor as another option for the $9 million blade-test lab. States including Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia, are also competing for the lab. The Energy Department is expected to make a decision next month.
Judy Brennan , a leader of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, said she was relieved to learn there won’t be a giant turbine looming over Charlestown. “But, I have nothing but questions,” Brennan said. “No one in this community knows anything about this.”
State Senator Jarrett Barrios, a Cambridge Democrat, said he and Charlestown’s representative, Eugene L. O’Flaherty, are pushing for full community briefings and a neighborhood review. Barrios, who was the first state senator to back the 130-tower Cape Wind proposal in Nantucket Sound, said the test lab could be “an exciting way to support the growth of this industry in Massachusetts. Having said that, everything needs to go through a community process.”
Lanny Johnson , a business development consultant to Autoport, the car-shipping company that currently uses the proposed Charlestown site, said the company is eager to engage talks about fitting the test lab in with its operations.
“This project is exciting,” Johnson said. “It has the potential, in the long run, for creating an alternative energy supply in New England.”
By Peter J. Howe, Globe Staff
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