Clemson University, DOE, others dedicate largest wind turbine test facility in world

22 November 2013 by Jeff Anthony
Over 1,000 people attended the grand opening and dedication ceremony yesterday of Clemson University Restoration Institute’s new energy testing and research center in North Charleston, S.C. The facility--which is now known as the SCG&E Energy Innovation Center, and includes the world’s largest wind turbine drivetrain test facility in the world and hardware-in-the-loop grid simulator--is the outcome of the largest single grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for wind power, to Clemson University in November 2009.

The purpose of the grant was to design, build, and operate a facility capable of full-scale, highly accelerated testing of next-generation wind turbine drive-train technology. The objective of DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable is to speed the development and deployment of next-generation wind turbine technology to reduce the cost of energy delivered. The facility will forge public-private partnerships in a unique industrial coastal environment, support the nation’s emerging offshore wind industry, and educate the workforce of the future.

The facility is located in a former U.S. Navy shipyard, near rail access and a deep-water port, to allow testing of the largest wind turbine designs in the world. The facility includes a 7.5-MW test rig and a larger 15-MW facility to test some of the largest wind turbine designs currently on the books, including those destined for offshore locations. The latter test stand used 1,900 cubic yards of concrete and 650 tons of steel rebar to create an apparatus capable of testing the nacelle-enclosed components of wind turbine drivetrains up to 15 MW. Read more about the facility’s features and test capabilities.

Among the 1,000-plus attendees at the dedication ceremony yesterday were South Carolina elected officials and representatives from the firms that constructed the facilities, utilities in the Southeast who contributed to the construction of the facility, and DOE, including Daniel Poneman, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy. In his remarks at the ceremony, he noted, “Developing America’s vast renewable energy resources is an important part of the Energy Department’s ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. The Clemson testing facility represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry--helping to make sure the best, most efficient wind energy technologies are developed and manufactured in the United States.”

Also speaking at the ceremony was Mark Johnson from GE Power and Wind. This week, the company announced it would be the first industry partner to use the 7.5-MW test rig to test its next-generation wind-turbine drivetrain technology, beginning in spring 2014.

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