City Builds Toward Alternative Energy Sector for Job Creation

New Bedford Eyed as One of Six Sites in US for National Wind Turbine Blade Test Facility

New Bedford, MA – With a continuing national need for research into the realm of wind-powered energy, a site selection committee has dwindled a list of potential large-scale blade testing facility sites down to only two in the Bay State: New Bedford and Boston.

“We are doing all we can to attract new companies and real jobs for our people. Having New Bedford selected as a finalist for the National Wind Test Blade Facility is further recognition of the developments taking shape here,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang.

The New Bedford site, adjacent to the Shuster Corporation building, features more than 10 acres of land and more than 600 feet of water frontage, essential to the loading and off-loading of turbine blades that measure up to 220 feet in length and 20 feet wide. The blades will be tested in a horizontal position mounted on stands inside an industrial building.

The selection committee, made up of several collaborative organizations including the UMass Amherst’s Renewable Energy Research Laboratory (RERL), the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, judged New Bedford to be one of two top sites after considering over a dozen in the commonwealth during the process.

Although other states are also in the running for the testing facility, RERL has identified Massachusetts as having a number of advantages over other states due to the UMASS system’s current extensive research into wind energy and the region’s excellent offshore wind power potential due to being surrounded by water.

The proposed blade testing facility will lead the way to designing new turbine standards, helping to reduce machine cost and financial risk, and providing a way to test multiple blades to keep up with the huge growth in turbine sizes over the last few years.

With only one blade testing facility in the U.S. at the National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colorado, which has far exceeded its own one-blade-at-a-time testing capacity, NBEDC Executive Director Matthew Morrissey said, “locating the facility in New Bedford would not only create a minimum of up to 20 jobs in the city, but it would also continue to lay the groundwork for additional growth in the alternative energy industry sector.”

“Having the facility in New Bedford could lead to blade manufacturing companies making their way to our city, as well as offshore wind turbine services and turbine component testing companies,” said Morrissey. “It could bring additional academic research opportunities, additional services to be provided to the offshore wind industry, and the testing of wind turbine drive trains, among many other related services,” he continued.

In a letter to the Massachusetts Office of Business Development regarding the city’s positions as one of the remaining sites being mulled for the project, Mayor Scott W. Lang reiterated that New Bedford’s proposed site features “a deep-water port with depths of 30 feet” as well a hurricane barrier stretching from the south end of the city to Fairhaven that allows the harbor to be completely “accessible” to the proposal “while remaining one of the safest havens on the eastern seaboard”.
The proposed blade-testing facility will include two 220 foot test stands with the space to expand accommodating up to 330 foot blades, as well as additional 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.

The U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, sponsoring the project, reported that the decision on the definite site for the proposed facility, which besides the two in Massachusetts, also includes Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Iowa and Maine, will likely be made next month.

Also see related Standard-Times story, December 18, 2006