Massachusetts will be one of two states building a state-of-the-art facility to test turbines used in wind power.
The facility will place the state at the forefront of wind power and alternative energy, said U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who outlined the facility with Gov. Deval L. Patrick at a press conference yesterday.
“This will make Massachusetts a global center for clean energy technology,” Patrick said. “This is a big step for us.”
Massachusetts and Texas were selected from six semifinalists to build the testing facilities. A collaboration between privately owned Massachusetts Technical Collaborative and the University of Massachusetts, the state office of economic development, and the office of energy and environmental affairs will complete the project.
The $20 million center will place the 70-meter blades used in wind power on a hangar and test them against wind and vibrations to ensure that they would hold up on the open sea. Located in Charlestown, the facility will receive $2 million in equipment from federal officials, $13 million from private and public funds, and $5 million from established reserve fund.
It would be the biggest facility of its kind in the country, Bodman said.
U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan joined Patrick, Bodman, colleague Rep. Bill Delahunt and UMass President Jack Wilson to announce the center.
Although local legislators welcomed the facility and the state’s prominent position in expanding the use of alternative energy, many are still concerned about where the wind farms will go. Cape Wind, a $900 million wind farm that would be located off Nantucket Sound, has been an extremely controversial project.
The Hoosac Wind project recently won a wetlands permit after it was stalled by procedural appeals for two years. The project would place 20 340-foot turbines in the towns of Florida and Monroe and would generate enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.
“These things are popping up all over, and some are controversial and some are not,” said Rep. Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton. “I think on its face it sounds like a great initiative. This technology is the wave of the future.”
Patrick also announced a plan to conserve energy by asking private companies to pay for conservation efforts and allowing them to raise rates for customers in an effort to slow energy use.
The plan would ask Nstar and National Grid to pay for energy conservation efforts, including installing energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs and appliances. Customers still would save money because they would be using less energy, Patrick said.
Although some legislators are concerned about allowing energy companies to increase their delivery rates, Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, and Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, both back the proposal.
Ian A. Bowles, secretary for the state Department of Energy, said he hopes to have a blueprint for the conservation plan by Sept. 1 so that it can be implemented in 2010.
“It’s an ambitious date, but it’s achievable,” Bowles said.
By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau
26 June 2007
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