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Wind Blade Testing Facility is Largest in North America: MassCEC’s Stephen Pike Tells MassEcon About Charlestown Lab’s Success

  MassCEC’s Stephen Pike Tells MassEcon About Charlestown Lab’s Success

WESTBOROUGH, MA – Mass Clean Energy Center Chief Executive Officer Stephen Pike told members of MassEcon at their March meeting today that the center’s six-year-old Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown is the largest facility used to test wind turbine blades in North America and one of the largest in the world.

Pike described the work of MassCEC and the scope of the clean energy sector in the Commonwealth, including the state’s competitive strengths within this sector and the role of the MassCEC in promoting clean energy in Massachusetts.

Engineers at the center just in the last six months have designed a one-of-a-kind test that is unique, called a dual-axis test, during which a blade can be stressed in multiple directions at the same time, in a kind of figure-8 pattern, MassCEC officials said today.

“Massachusetts is a hub for clean energy, and the success of the Wind Technology Testing Center demonstrates the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting technology breakthroughs and innovation,” said Pike. “MassCEC looks forward to working with MassEcon to support the state’s innovation economy in the future.”

Pike, who is responsible for leading MassCEC’s efforts to build a nation-leading clean energy economy in Massachusetts, was appointed Interim CEO in September 2015 after joining MassCEC as General Counsel in May 2013, leading the organization’s general corporate and public law matters, and overseeing governmental affairs.

Throughout his career, Steve has counseled numerous clean energy companies at various stages, sizes and technology focus.

Massachusetts won in a nationwide competitive process to determine where the testing facility would be located. “MassEcon supported the selection of Massachusetts and the Charlestown site when the testing facility was looking for a home,” Susan Houston, Executive Director of MassEcon, said.

The Wind Technology Testing Center was conceived as clean-technology infrastructure that would attract elements of the clean-energy industry to Massachusetts, MassCEC officials said. The $38 million lab, which has tested wind turbine blades up to 60 meters long and is designed to test blades up to 90 meters in length, has worked on 27 different configurations since it opened in 2011.

The center is located on Massachusetts Port Authority property near Boston Harbor because some of the large blades are transported by sea. MassCEC funded its creation with about $13 million, and $25 million came from American Recovery Act funding under the Obama Administration.

Similar facilities exist in Colorado and one of comparable size in the United Kingdom. Unlike some other labs, MassCEC’s has the advantage of being independent, not operated by a corporation.

The center, designed to be self-supporting, has been booked for business since it opened and covered its costs after only three years, MassCEC officials said.

The purpose is to assist companies that design and manufacture wind turbine blades in testing their strength and durability, certifying the design, and determining how they would perform in the field.

With the testing completed faster, companies are intended to be able to bring costs down and get their blades into service faster.

The center conducts accelerated field tests on the blades, bending and twisting and shaking the blades while mounted on a wall whose strength is bolstered by pilings deep in the ground. The center is designed to apply the equivalent of 20 years of operational stress to the blades but test them in 3-4 months. Companies from around the world have used the center, and blades tested in Charlestown are now in operation in several locations.

The center is overseen by an engineer and a staff of about half a dozen. Student groups, including currently one from UMass Lowell, are brought in, and the center also offers tours to the public.

ABOUT MASSECON

MassEcon, founded in 1993, is a non-profit, non-partisan entity that serves as the state’s private sector partner in promoting Massachusetts as the premier choice for business growth. Its services include the state’s only Site Finder Service, which helps expanding and relocating companies find a home in the Commonwealth; the Research & Information Service, which provides companies with the information they need to evaluate the Commonwealth as a location to grow; and the Massachusetts Ambassadors, a network of civic and corporate leaders who help market Massachusetts as a place to do business. Learn more about MassEcon at www.massecon.com.

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March 17, 2017