Wind power testing site gets green light

HOUSTON UH will receive technical and operational assistance from NREL as well as $2 million in equipment for the Gulf Coast testing site. Construction is expected to be completed in 2010. The Texas-NREL Large Blade Research and Test Facility (LBR&TF) will be able to perform full-scale testing of turbine blades up to 70 meters in length.

UH is the general manager of the Lone Star Wind Alliance (LSWA), a public/private partnership of universities, government agencies and corporate partners formed to support the economic development of renewable wind energy throughout Texas and the nation. The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between UH and NREL was announced Tuesday, June 3, at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2008 conference taking place in Houston.

"As the nation's top wind energy producer, Texas is proud to welcome this crucial blade-testing center," Governor Rick Perry said, who served as keynote speaker at the AWEA conference. "The construction of this facility is more tangible proof of our state's ongoing commitment to renewable energy and its growing role in our increasingly diverse energy portfolio. Texas is proud to be to be a global leader in this rapidly expanding field."

In addition to UH, the alliance includes The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, West Texas A&M University, Rice University, Lamar University, New Mexico State University, Old Dominion University, the Houston Advanced Research Center, the Texas General Land Office, the State Energy Conservation Office, the Texas Workforce Commission, and 12 wind energy companies and suppliers, including Houston-based BP Alternative Energy, Shell WindEnergy, and Dow Chemical and Huntsman International.

"The testing facility will stimulate cutting-edge research and attract a wealth of related industry to Texas," U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said, who has been a strong supporter of the Lone Star Wind Alliance initiative. "It's gratifying that all the hard work and intense preparation behind this proposal have produced such remarkable results."

The Lone Star Wind Alliance proposal also received support in the House from U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee and U.S. Representative Gene Greene. State government played a vital role in securing the LBR&TF, as the Texas legislature pledged $5 million toward its construction. State senator Judith Zaffirini led the way, with Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst advocating its approval and Governor Perry signing the final budget.

The Lone Star Wind Alliance is designing the LBR&TF to meet the wind industry's need for testing and certification of the next generation of megawatt-scale wind turbine blades. Private wind turbine and blade manufacturers are expected to fund much of the operations of the facility within five years of its construction. During that time, the Lone Star Wind Alliance members plan to conduct significant research and development efforts in all aspects of wind energy using this facility for testing new designs and concepts. NREL will also have access to the facility to conduct its own research.

The facility will be located on a 22-acre tract of waterway property at Ingleside-on-the-Bay (just north of Corpus Christi) donated by BP Alternative Energy, a founding member of the LSWA.

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