The next-generation wind turbines produced around the world will be tested and even developed in South Carolina. A facility at the North Charleston Navy base is expected to create hundreds of jobs.
The Clemson University Restoration Institute and its partners have received a $45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, combined with $53 million of matching funds, to build and operate a large-scale wind turbine drive train testing facility at the institute’s research campus on the former Navy base. The award is the largest single grant ever received in the university’s history. A drive train takes energy generated by a turbine’s blades and increases the rotational speed to drive the electrical generator.
What’s more, Clemson officials say South Carolina could become a wind energy manufacturing hub, with up to 20,000 new jobs being created within 20 years.
Nick Rigas, director of the Restoration Institute’s Renewable Energy focus area, said the state-of-the-art testing facility will be a great opportunity for South Carolina. He says South Carolina’s strengths include port and shipbuilding facilities as well as local steel manufacturing. Rigas says there are also renowned research institutions, and he says the Palmetto State will benefit greatly from the announcement.
Dr. Rigas says South Carolina and the Clemson facility will be essential to the wind energy industry. “Manufacturers worldwide will have access to bring in their new turbines and drive trains for testing under simulated condictions,” said Rigas. “That will allow them to see how they will perform in the field.”
The announcement was made by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
In the short term, the Restoration Institute estimates the initiative will create at least 113 temporary jobs associated with construction of the facility and 21 full-time jobs. It also will generate 568 indirect jobs for a total of 852 jobs.
Rigas says wind energy has been popular in Europe, but its popularity is growing world-wide and in the U.S., especially on the East and West Coasts.
Dr. Rigas says this a great example of a public-private partnership. The university’s partners are: the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority; the South Carolina Department of Commerce; the State of South Carolina; South Carolina Public Railways; the South Carolina State Ports Authority; and private partners RENK AG, Tony Bakker and James Meadors.
Clemson University officials are giving special credit to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, without which they say the grant would not have been possible. Clemson administration sends a special thanks to U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn, in whose district the facility is located, and Sen. Lindsey Graham; at the state level, Sens. Glenn McConnell, Hugh Leatherman, Larry Grooms and Paul Campbell, Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell and Rep. Dan Cooper; other members of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation; the State Ports Authority; the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority; and the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
Clemson University President James Barker said this grant means the university can combine its strengths to catapult South Carolina to a leading role in the nation’s emerging wind power industry.