NEW BEDFORD – A city site is one of a handful of finalists nationwide for the new home of a wind turbine blade-testing site.
The U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory would like to find a home for a facility that would test huge wind turbine blades measuring 220 feet in length. The facility would not place the giant blades on a tower, but would instead test their strength and durability inside an industrial building. The New Bedford site is located in the South Terminal waterfront, next to the Shuster Corp. on Hassey Street.
Also in the mix is a site in a Massport site located in the Charlestown section of Boston, as well as sites in Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Iowa and Maine. The decision will likely be made next month.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory sought sites with water access, because the huge blades have to be transported by barge. The New Bedford site has a bulkhead that requires some improvements if chosen. The facility would bring 12 to 25 manufacturing jobs to the city.
UMass Amherst professor Anthony L. Rogers, who helped put the state’s proposal together, said that having a test blade facility in Massachusetts could bring blade manufacturers into the state as well. Offshore wind farms have enormous energy potential off the coast of New England, he said, and a testing facility could become the center on which a wind technology cluster would be built around.
He also said that if Massachusetts is chosen, the New Bedford and Charlestown sites are considered equal.
“We had originally planned on a priority site and a backup site,” Dr. Rogers said. “We honestly couldn’t decide between the two sites.”
Currently, the only one blade testing facility in the U.S. is located at the National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colo., which has far exceeded its own one-blade-at-a-time testing capacity, according to Matthew A. Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Corp.
“This facility is a catalytic driver of our efforts to bring industry to the city from the alternative energy sector,” said Mr. Morrissey. If New Bedford was designated for this facility, “The city would become the leading alternative energy area in the commonwealth. The alternative energy sector is important because it would provide real manufacturing jobs for our skilled workforce today.”
Mayor Scott W. Lang said, “We are doing all we can to attract new companies and real jobs for our people. New Bedford being selected as a finalist for the National Wind Test Blade Facility is further recognition of the developments taking shape here.”
The blade-testing proposed facility will include two 220-foot test stands with the space to expand to up to 330-foot blades, as well as addition office and conference room space, a pump and machine room, equipment storage and at least one acre of space available for the delivery of additional services.
By Aaron Nicodemus, Standard-Times staff writer
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