DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY TO FUND UH-LED WIND TURBINE RESEARCH CENTER
New Facilities in Texas, Massachusetts Will Bring
Pioneering Technology to Wind Research
The University of Houston-led Lone Star Wind Alliance has succeeded in bringing one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) large turbine-testing facilities to the Texas Gulf Coast, a major step forward in developing the future of clean, renewable wind energy.
“We are very excited about this opportunity and announcement,” said Raymond Flumerfelt, dean of the Cullen College of Engineering at UH. “It will directly result in a University of Houston-directed $24 million world-class research and test facility in Texas to test large wind turbine blades and wind system components. It is also an important first step in establishing Texas as a global leader in wind energy technology and providing an important support base for a projected half trillion dollar global industry,” he said following the DOE’s announcement Monday.
More information about the UH-led alliance, including images of the proposed facility, is available at http://www.egr.uh.edu/wind.
Flumerfelt and Cullen College of Engineering Distinguished University Professor of Mechanical Engineering Su Su Wang submitted a proposal to the DOE on behalf of the alliance in May, competing with a group in Massachusetts and four other states.
Both the Texas and Massachusetts groups will receive $2 million from DOE to design, construct and operate a research facility capable of testing offshore wind blades up to 330 feet in length. Including the DOE investment, project costs of each test facility will total approximately $20 million. The DOE investment (Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009) is subject to Congressional appropriations. The Lone Star Wind Alliance has pledged approximately $18 million from state and private sources for initial capital and startup costs.
“The facility will be critical in developing more efficient, cost-effective and longer life wind energy turbine blades,” Wang said. “It will be a world-class facility with the capability to test current and future blades up to 100 meters (300+ feet) in length in both dynamic and static modes. It will also be critical to attracting leading turbine manufacturers to the State and region.”
Texas’ facility will be in Ingleside, Texas, just north of Corpus Christi.
“These two testing facilities represent an important next step in the expansion of competitiveness of the U.S. domestic wind energy industry,” DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman said. “We congratulate Massachusetts and Texas for their outstanding proposals, and we believe this work will build upon the Administration’s goal of prompting states to research, develop and deploy more clean energy technologies.”
The facilities will be built through an innovative public-private partnership, organized through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the U.S. Department of Energy. Private wind turbine and blade manufacturers are expected to fully fund the operations of the facility within five years of its construction.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison strongly supported the Texas initiative. Hutchison wrote a letter to Bodman supporting the Lone Star Wind Alliance’s application for this facility on April 4, 2007, and met with the alliance in late March 2007.
“It is exciting that in Texas we are taking the lead in research and development,” Hutchison said. “This announcement will bring cutting-edge research and equipment to our Gulf Coast and will help create the next generation of wind energy for Texas and the nation.”
The Texas Legislature also played a crucial role in securing the UH-led facility, pledging $5 million toward its construction. State Sen. Judith Zaffirini carried the $5 million request, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed off on it in the final budget. Another $5 million is pending final approval through the state’s Emerging Technology Fund.
The Lone Star Wind Alliance is a UH-led coalition of universities, government agencies and corporate partners created to prepare the proposal for submission to the federal government.
In addition to the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering, the alliance includes The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, West Texas A&M University, the Houston Advanced Research Center, Stanford University, Montana State University, New Mexico State University, Old Dominion University, the Texas General Land Office, the State Energy Conservation Office, the Texas Workforce Commission, Gov. Perry, Dow Chemical Co., Huntsman and Good Company Associates.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Texas is firmly established as the leader in wind power development, with more than 2,700 megawatts installed at the end of 2006 and some 1,000 megawatts currently under construction.
Blade testing is required to meet wind turbine design standards, reduce machine cost, and reduce the technical and financial risk of deploying mass-produced wind turbine models. Rapid growth in wind turbine size over the past two decades has outgrown the existing capabilities of the DOE-NREL’s National Wind Technology Center, which operates the only blade test facility in North America capable of performing full-scale testing of megawatt-scale wind turbine blades.
In addition to Texas, the states of Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio and Virginia submitted applications for the test facility.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Partnership proposed to build a test facility at the Boston Autoport in Boston Harbor. This partnership includes the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, University of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Development, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the Massachusetts Port Authority.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.
About the Cullen College of Engineering
UH Cullen College of Engineering has produced five U.S. astronauts, 10 members of the National Academy of Engineering, and degree programs that have ranked in the top ten nationally. With more than 2,600 students, the college offers accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees in biomedical, chemical, civil and environmental, electrical and computer, industrial, and mechanical engineering. It also offers specialized programs in aerospace, materials, petroleum engineering and telecommunications.
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