A giant wind turbine blade—one that could power the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine—arrived for structural testing at Boston's Wind Technology Testing Center. The blade, manufactured by General Electric, is part of a 12-megawatt turbine protoype that the company plans to roll out commercially in 2021.
It measures 107 meters in length and weighs 50 tons, and it would spin on a turbine twice as powerful as the turbines currently operating off of Block Island, Rhode Island.
The hope is that the blade will eventually be used in some of the state's upcoming offshore wind farms, particularly the newly announced Mayflower Wind project, which has yet to choose a turbine manufacturer.
Steven Pike of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which operates the testing facility, said more powerful blades can mean fewer turbines in the water overall.
"You would see 20 percent less machines out in the water. So if you’re doing an 800 megawatt project, [right now] you have ballpark 84 machines, for a 12 megawatt machine you’d have 65 to 70," Pike said.
The blade is the biggest the facility has ever tested. It was so large it couldn't travel on roads so it had to be delivered by ship to the testing site, and part of it had to be cut off for it to fit inside the building. Over the next few months, the testing facility will use hydraulics to bend and twist the blade to make sure it can withstand ocean conditions.
"The wind is generally stronger in the ocean, and you have the salt from the ocean and the chemical reaction that can have on various materials. Those are two significant [impacts] to take into consideration with land-based and ocean-based projects," Pike said.