Dignitaries shovel sand to celebrate the beginning of construction for the new wind turbine drive train testing facility. Left to right: Clemson University Board of Trustees chairman David Wilkins, S.C. Sen. Glenn McConnell, S.C. Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, Clemson President Jim Barker, S.C. Sen. Larry Grooms, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. James Clyburn. (Credit: Rebecca Dalhouse/Clemson.)
Last week, Clemson University held the ground breaking ceremony for its planned wind turbine testing center, expected to be the world’s largest turbine drive-train testing facility.
Planners say the center will cost around $100 million to build, with $45 million coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the balance coming from public and private matching funds. The award, first announced by DOE Steven Chu in 2009, is the largest single grant ever received in the university’s history.
The effort is being led by the school’s Restoration Institute, a program “established in 2004 to drive economic growth by creating, developing and fostering restoration industries and environmentally sustainable technologies in South Carolina.” Two of CURI’s six focus areas are renewable energy and advanced materials, processes and systems. CURI is an outgrowth of Clemson’s successful efforts at restoring the Civil War-era H.L. Hunley submarine.
According to a Clemson press release, once completed the facility will be capable of full-scale highly accelerated testing of advanced drive-train systems for wind turbines in the 5 megawatt to 15 megawatt range with a 30 percent overload capacity. A drive train takes energy generated by a turbine’s blades and increases the rotational speed to drive the electrical generator, similar to the transmission in a car.
“South Carolina can combine the strengths of its top-ranked research university with its manufacturing sector to catapult the state into a leading role in the nation’s emerging and important wind-power industry,” says James Barker, university president.
The other institutions partnering in the project with the university include the state Department of Commerce, Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority, the South Carolina State Ports Authority, South Carolina Public Railways and private enterprises such as James Meadors, Tony Bakker and RENK AG.
The facility is supposed to be operations around the third quarter of 2012 and ultimately provide 21 full-time jobs.