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Clarkson to host wind turbine testing facility

POTSDAM – A campus recognized for its environmental innovation and focus on sustainability saw those efforts pay off Thursday.

Clarkson University, named one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in North America by the Princeton Review, was selected to host a wind turbine blade-testing facility, the first of its kind.

The facility will be built and operated by Intertek Group, an international quality assurance company based in London, which received a $4.2 million grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for the facility and a solar-power testing lab in Cortland.

Clarkson faculty members Piergiovanni Marzocca, an assistant professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering, and Kerop D. Janoyan, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, led the effort to bring the facility to the campus.

Intertek spun off another entity, the Center for the Evaluation of Clean Energy Technology, on Clarkson’s campus, which will become the foundation for a concentration of clean energy research facilities there, Mr. Janoyan said.

“Basically, that is going to be the hub entity that is in charge of all these facilities and capabilities and clean energy technologies,” he said. “Clarkson is going to be the owner – we’re going to have the blade-testing facility; that is what we’re starting with here, and we’re going to go further.”

Mr. Janoyan stressed the facility’s uniqueness, with other wind turbine testing facilities focusing on more expansive projects with larger wind turbines.

“This is a very unique facility, not just in New York state but in the country. Hopefully it will draw a lot of business,” he said. “There are national labs doing this, but they are not run the same way.”

The $900,000 facility will test the performance of wind blades, Mr. Janoyan said.

“This facility at the heart of it will be able to test wind turbine blades for small to medium-size wind turbines, which goes up to about 12 or 15 meters in length for the blades,” he said. “This will be predominantly mechanical testing, really just testing the material properties of the blade under different kinds of loads.”

Mr. Janoyan said the facility is likely to bring jobs, money and attention to the Clarkson campus.

“There will be a couple of jobs to run the facility itself. CECET will have some jobs. The goal itself will be to become a place where manufacturers and inventors can bring their blades for testing to optimize the design,” he said. “It is indirectly really creating all these opportunities for people to try out their new approaches to wind turbine blade design.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the grants along with a series of green initiatives during an Earth Week cabinet meeting.

“The initiatives announced today will save businesses, homeowners and taxpayers money and help ensure that our state remains a leader in clean energy production and environmental protection,” he said in a news release.

Wind power is a controversial subject in the north country, dividing opinion among those who think it’s the wave of the energy future and those who don’t want wind turbines clouding the region’s scenic vistas.

The governor also announced students at Clarkson University won the state’s “Greening Your Campus” initiative by demonstrating $600,000 worth of energy savings.