Business

Wind turbine test site seeks breaking point

Stephen Flesher (at left), a blade test technician, removes cables from the recently delivered 200-foot blade. Near left, a view through an empty port at the testing station. In the photo above, the blade is readied for testing.
Stephen Flesher (at left), a blade test technician, removes cables from the recently delivered 200-foot blade. Near left, a view through an empty port at the testing station. In the photo above, the blade is readied for testing.lane turner/globe staff

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At nearly 200-feet long, it is among the largest windmill blades in the world, so big it had to be brought in on a cargo ship to a testing center in Charlestown, where two hydraulic cranes were necessary to move the 13-ton fiberglass and balsa wood structure.

Over the next year, the state-run Wind Technology Testing Center will bend, oscillate, and ultimately break the massive, hollow blade, testing its strength and looking for flaws in its construction and design that could influence the future of wind power.

Opened in 2011 with the help of state and federal money, the Wind Technology Testing Center is one of the largest such facilities in the world. A cavernous steel box similar to an airplane hangar, the center has two overhead cranes that can each hoist 50 tons, and reinforced concrete blocks that hold blades on a horizontal axis while engineers subject them to multiple stress and fatigue tests.

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