Yesterday was the grand opening of the Clemson University Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility, the biggest and most advanced test center of its kind in the world. SACE was a sponsor of the event had the pleasure of sending a small team to attend.
The facility will test advanced wind turbines by simulating field conditions to measure the turbines’ response and interaction with the grid. Last night, attendees were able to view both of the facility’s test beds, with capacities of 7.5 megawatts and 15 megawatts, respectively. For reference, this largest offshore wind turbine currently deployed is 6 megawatts. The eGRID grid simulator onsite will also allow for researching how other energy technologies such as solar power interact with the grid. This type of research is increasingly significant as the electric system becomes more decentralized and smart grid technology becomes more important. It is clear that Clemson has built its facility with an eye to the future.
The Southeast has a world class offshore wind resource and this facility provides a world class research center to develop the technology to capture this resource and turn it into clean affordable energy for our region. We are hopeful that this facility will help the Palmetto State become the epi-center for research and development of these advanced turbine designs.
Offshore wind energy isn’t a new concept. The first offshore wind farm was built off Denmark in 1991, but because of regulatory hurdles, offshore wind farms have not yet been built here in the United States. This is why Clemson’s efforts are so vitally important to help reduce the costs and increase the reliability of offshore wind turbines.
The facility was initially supported by a $45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and matched by private sector, state and local government contributions totaling $55 million.
Speakers at the event included Clemson University President, James Barker; Clemson University Vice President of Economic Development, John Kelly; Duke Energy Chairman of the Board, Jim Rogers; Chairman and CEO of SCANA Corporation, Kevin Marsh; U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn; GE Power and Wind Director, Mark Johnson; and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman.
Over 1,000 people attended this standing-room-only event, including public officials, industry leaders, NGOs and Clemson alumni.
SACE has been a strong supporter of Clemson University’s efforts ever since this facility was announced exactly four years ago this week and has written extensively on this project, wind energy in South Carolina and the importance of offshore wind in fueling the national clean energy economy. SACE blogs can be accessed here and background information on offshore wind energy in the Southeast can be accessed here.