By Todd Gutner, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – With a tough economy, some people are looking at the clean tech industry with hopeful eyes. All this week meteorologist Todd Gutner is exploring nature, and today he reports on the wind and solar industry in Massachusetts which is showing new signs of life.

The Wind Technology Test Center in Charlestown is the case in point. It’s the largest in the world, just opened, and is just one piece of a growing renewable energy economy taking hold here. The point of the hangar like facility is to be able to test the current and next generations of wind turbine blades. That’s crucial, because if America’s energy future is to come, in part, from wind power, then those blades are going to have to get bigger. The new center can test ever larger designs. “There’s an industry adage that says, more power per tower,” says Patrick Cloney, the Executive Director for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. He says they’re poised to be able to handle the hardware needed to provide that power. “It’s the world’s largest lab that can test wind blades up to 100 meters long,” he says.

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WBZ-TV Meteorologist Todd Gutner reports

The idea is to examine the durability and longevity of the blades by subjecting them to enormous forces to see how they withstand the power of nature. It’s also creating jobs not only at the test facility, but in other parts of the state as well. In fact, one turbine company recently opened a research and design operating in Fall River. The proximity to the test facility was a big part of deciding to locate in Mass. “We want to make the renewable energy industry another marquee industry for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” says Cloney.

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The demand is there. Even before the test center opened in May, it was booked for the next year and a half. “There’s that much demand for that facility,” says Gov. Deval Patrick. Todd sat down with Governor Patrick who says renewable energy is becoming an economic engine for Mass.

“We’ve seen a 20 fold plus increase in wind and solar generation, a 60% increase in employment in the clean tech field,” he says.

The number of companies involved in solar power in the state has jumped from 30 to about 200 over the past 5 years. Broadway Electrical in Dorchester has been in business for three generations, but has now expanded into renewable energy. “We’ve been able to grow in the area of solar,” says Dan Griffin of Broadway. The company is installing hundreds of solar panels on the roof of the Medway Middle School. That power will save the town as much as $20,000 each year, and the solar jobs brighten Broadway’s bottom line. “This is really good for right now in terms of job creation and value creation, but over time, the value, I think, will be even greater,” says Gov. Patrick.

The turbine test facility cost $31-million, most of it paid for by the federal government. Of course government support for renewable energy doesn’t always work out as hoped. Case in point, Evergreen Solar moving its’ manufacturing overseas despite Mass. taxpayer support for the company.

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Link: Mass. Clean Energy Center