The Wind Technology Testing Center is located in Charlestown -- in the district of State Senator Sal N. DiDomenico, who accompanied me on the visit -- and it received a stimulus grant of $25 million to get it built. When it is completed – which Patrick Cloney the executive director of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center told me will be next February – it will be the first commercial blade test facility in the world capable of handling blades as long as 90 meters.
This is the future of clean energy and the stimulus award ensured that the Commonwealth will be at the forefront of this industry. Rahul Yarala, executive director of the testing center, told me that the idea for this center started as early as June, 2007. Blades over 50 meters need to be transferred by ship so this Charlestown location right near a port was an ideal location. “We did all the groundwork and stimulus came and closed the funding gap,” he told me.
Cloney added that Governor Patrick, who is a big champion of this project, recognized that the center would be an anchor for the industry and it’s clear from what I saw and heard that he is right.
Yarala told me that the longest blades currently in use worldwide are about 60 meters long, but companies are starting to explore blades as long as 75 meters. There is no facility in the country that is capable of testing blades longer than 50 meters.
To see the center as it is in the process of being built is an awe-inspiring event. It is an engineering marvel that is being created to accommodate blades that can weigh up to 15 tons. Brendt Gonsalves, the project superintendent who works for Turner Construction, told me the blades will be fastened on one end to pilings anchored 160 feet down and then subjected to a series of tests over three months that will mimic 20 years of use.
What I also love about this project is that it is creating about 250 construction jobs. The guys I spoke to on my visit told me that there is about 40 percent unemployment in the steel industry so they’re glad to be working.
Cloney told me this project is something MassCEC is really proud of and as I stood there looking at these guys working on this building that is heralding a new era in energy I could see why.