A huge step toward the nation’s energy future is taking place in the North Charleston area, as the transformation of a 70-year-old U.S. Navy warehouse into a wind turbine testing facility is nearing completion. The testing facility at Clemson’s Restoration Institute will be the largest of its kind in the world. The Restoration Institute’s executive director Dr. John Kelly says despite being in a hurricane zone that has frequent earthquake activity, the testing facility is in an ideal location.
Kelly says prior to actual testing, the facility will be receiving its first test rig, which is for a 7.5 megawatt turbine in April. A second, larger testing unit, one weighing 400 tons and capable of testing turbines that can generate up to 15 megawatts will also be installed, even though turbines that size have yet to be built. A 15-megawatt turbine could provide power to about 6,000 homes.
Kelly says the actual goal of the testing process is to push a turbine push it to the stress point in which it fails. Kelly points out that it’s much more difficult to repair a turbine after it has been installed miles offshore.
AUDIO: Kelly says the facility’s location is ideal (:54)
Kelly says a number of European nations have taken full advantage of the offshore wind opportunity and some of the largest turbine manufacturers in the world are located Europe. Kelly says the U.S. has been slow to adapt to offshore wind, but momentum is building, and areas along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard are seen as prime locations for future “wind farms.” Kelly says there are two prime spots along the South Carolina coast that many view as ideal for “wind farms.”
Kelly says there have been meetings in Washington to discuss offshore winds, especially in the northern states. Kelly says any area that gets on the ground floor of the offshore wind energy industry in the U.S., will reap the economic benefits future economic opportunities.
AUDIO: Kelly says areas of the SC coast could be used for wind farms (1:00)