BOSTON (SHNS) – Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper said Thursday that the Healey administration is going to pursue an expansion of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown, picking up on an idea that the Baker administration did not get across the goal line.
The Charlestown testing site opened in 2011 as the first facility in North America capable of testing the blades that power offshore wind turbines, replicating the stress of a 25-year lifespan at sea in the course of just a few months. MassCEC said it has since run 35 blade testing programs entailing hundreds of individual blade tests.
In 2019, the center received a 107-meter, 50-ton blade built for the General Electric Haliade-X turbines, the kind planned to be used as part of the Vineyard Wind project that is expected to be built and operational by the end of this year. The then-head of MassCEC said it was more than twice as long as the first blade tested in Charlestown in 2011.
During a press conference Thursday morning at the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, another MassCEC facility that is expected to serve as the primary staging and deployment base for the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, Tepper said that she is “really looking forward to seeing those big blades here.”
“They were at the testing center and they had to like cut them off a little bit because they were so big, they couldn’t fit in the space,” she said. The secretary then added, “Which, by the way, we’re going to change. We’re going to build a bigger place, we hope, and hope to have all your support on that.”
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs spokesperson Danielle Burney said that the Healey administration is “committed to moving forward with the expansion of MassCEC’s Wind Technology Testing Center” and is “considering every option to fund this much-needed expansion that will advance Massachusetts’ clean energy industry.”
MassCEC’s website says the facility can test blade sections up to 90 meters in length and a fact sheet provided by EEA Thursday said that the testing facility would need to expand from about 300 feet to between 460 and 490 feet long, and from 85 feet to at least 131 feet tall to be able to test new blades of up to 150 meters. In all, the project is estimated to cost between $60 million and $70 million.
Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration put forward a proposal to expand the wind technology testing center a year ago.
The economic development bill that Baker proposed last April called for $70 million in American Rescue Plan Act money to go towards “the expansion of the Wind Technology Testing Center.”
The funding that Baker proposed was stripped from the economic development bill by the Legislature and it was not included in the compromise $3.76 billion economic development bill that Baker signed into law in November.
MassCEC already received a U.S. Department of Energy grant in October 2019 to upgrade its equipment for structural testing of longer blades, up to 120 meters.
Healey’s first state budget proposal (H 1) includes $35 million for MassCEC, which the administration said would be the first time that the quasi-governmental agency gets operating funding from the state budget. Combined with funding said to be included in Healey’s yet-to-be-filed supplemental budget, the administration said it would be tripling MassCEC’s budget.
“It’s really an organization at the nexus of our clean energy strategy,” Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said in New Bedford on Thursday.
The parts of Healey’s budget proposal that relate to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will be the subject of a March 27 hearing of the Joint Ways and Means Committee. Lawmakers and administration officials will gather at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a short drive from the New Bedford terminal, for that hearing.
EEA, which sits at the center of the state’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions to a net-zero level by 2050 and to electrify buildings, vehicles, and more, would get $543.6 million under Healey’s budget — an increase of $105.2 million or 24 percent that would allow the secretariat to hire 240 new staff members (an 8 percent increase in staffing), including 14 environmental justice liaisons in a new Office of Environmental Justice.
“Look, in our budgeting, we are looking to match our ambitions with our investments. We don’t just talk a big game, we want to deliver and execute,” Healey said Thursday. “And I know together, working with the likes of all of our colleagues in government and all of you, we’re going to see that through. And we’re super, super excited about that.”