The Massachusetts Wind Technology Testing Center (WTTC), a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), was recently accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) to test wind turbine blades to International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. The facility is one of the first test centers in the world that can test blades up to 90 meters in length, and is the only test facility in the United States that is accredited to test these longer blades to IEC standards.
Manufacturers that have their blades tested by an accredited center can use the test results to have their blades certified, and certification plays a critical role in successful marketing at home and abroad. Local building authorities, project financiers, and insurance companies ask for certification to reduce their risk before projects move forward. To compete overseas, U.S. manufacturers must have their products certified to standards adopted by other nations.
In certification, an independent party gives written assurance that a product, process, or service conforms to specified requirements. International certification relies on standards that are continually updated and expanded. This standards development process is conducted by international committees of experts, the foremost being the IEC, to develop appropriate international standards and testing procedures. Researchers in DOE's Wind Program work closely with the IEC to ensure reciprocity and acceptance of the U.S.-developed analytic tools used in the process of designing wind turbines and wind turbine components.
In 2009, DOE awarded Massachusetts an additional $25 million in funding (up from the original $2 million) from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate construction of the Wind Technology Testing Center, which was fully commissioned in May 2011.
Researchers from NREL and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center have worked together for the past year to develop and implement the quality management system required to achieve accreditation. By the end of September 2012, the WTTC had completed certification testing on several multimegawatt blades for industry partners.