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Wind Turbine Testing Facility
Wind turbines are popping up all over the United States, and we’ve shown you stories on how the NECA-IBEW team trains their craftsmen and women on wind turbine installations, and then a couple of job-specific installations where those skills were put to the test.

Just as important as the installation is the equipment. Wind turbine blades spin and cut through the air at incredible speeds, with incredible force. Have you ever wondered how they’re inspected to make sure they’ll stand up to that incredible stress? Dominic Giarratano has the story today from Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Today’s wind turbines are modern marvels – they sweep across vast landscapes just waiting to spin into action. And along with all the tangibles a wind turbine brings, what’s becoming more and more critical to every manufacturer is making sure the blades are strong enough to withstand the most extreme conditions.

A 20-year life is the standard by which all turbine blades are measured. Just as our world waits for nothing, waiting 20 years to see wear and tear on a prototype blade has been put into warp speed.

Here at the Wind Technology Testing Facility at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the largest testing center on the planet, blades are put through a 20-year life stress test in a matter of two months.

Rahul Yarala, Executive Director, Wind Energy Testing Center
“To put it in context, it’s like if you have a category five hurricane wind speed hitting the wind turbine. We want to make sure the blade doesn’t break. It tucks away, it saves itself, and when the hurricane’s it will go back to work again.”

Turbine blades can be damaged or can break in two ways: flap wise and edge wise. Flap wise relates to the stress that a blade is put under when it is being spun by the wind to produce power. Edge wise relates to the stress blades are put under when gravity is at work. Here at the facility, and actuator mimics both flap and edge stress with more expediency and accuracy than Mother Nature.

This blade is currently undergoing an edge test, as we saw earlier, and is the typical size of today’s blades – around 50 meters. But here, they can test blades as long as 100 meters – that’s longer than one football field.

From the actuators to the high-tech computer collection, to the high bay lights, all the power for this facility was wired by NECA contractor Dagle Electric, and IBEW Local 103 electricians.

Richard Kaiser, Senior Project Manager, Dagle Electric
“Well, the equipment is electrically fed around here. Even though they have hydraulic pumps, the pumps are fed from the switchboards. As you can see, there’s miles of conduit in this project. Everything is fed through disconnect switches, all these pumps weren’t here, but we had to provide the disconnect switches and the receptacles for them, while the construction was going on. We didn’t even what the specs were on a lot of these pumps prior to us starting and finishing the project.”

Rahul Yarala, Executive Director, Wind Energy Testing Center
“The Local 103 folks were here toward the end, when the building was almost done, and that’s a difficult time because we started having visitors.”

Douglas Walen, Foreman, IBEW Local 103
“I’d say the height was challenging. We had to go 86 feet up in the air to put the digital lumen LED lights up in the roof, facing down, with the wind coming up off the water right there. And the sides weren’t up, so that was probably the toughest part, was going through the weather at that point in time.”

Glenn Vinto, IBEW Local 103
“That’s where the job started. We started in the ceiling, because we wanted to get in before all the other trades. And spent a few nights there, installed all the conduit, the lighting, they are very efficient.”

Richard Kaiser, Senior Project Manager, Dagle Electric
The high-beam lights are from a local company called Digital Lumens. They are all LED lights, they all have their own IP address. You can control every light individually, regardless of circuitry. There are 100 lights in the ceiling. As you can see, they give off an adequate light level, and energy efficiency, which is important to the owner.”

Rahul Yarala, Executive Director, Wind Energy Testing Center
“It’s much smaller. You know, the other big CFLs, you can see the whole dome, the aluminum dome. But it’s also helping because we’ve had two or three other warehouses come in and say, How did this work? Maybe we can do it.”

Richard Kaiser, Senior Project Manager, Dagle Electric
“We couldn’t go straight across underneath. By the time the electrical contract was awarded, the base slab was already poured. The first day we showed up o the job to do coordination drawings, they had the structural steel sitting here and they were getting ready to erect it. So the only conduit that’s underground is the conduit feeding the transformer to the switch gear, that’s it.”

Douglas Walen, Foreman, IBEW Local 103
“It’s the most unbelievable pipework I’ve seen in the Local. Most of the jobs I’ve been on have been BX and everything like that. And now to be on a purely pipe job is excellent.”

Rahul Yarala, Executive Director, Wind Energy Testing Center
“They did a good job, in spite of all the challenges. The challenges are that you could not penetrate into the concrete. So they had to go around. The challenges are that there’s a lot of test equipment, specific things that they could not adjust. In normal high-rise buildings or hospitals, they have some leeway. In here, the tolerances were really tight.”
That’s it for this video, see you soon back here on ETV.