Last week, Clemson University broke ground on a facility critical to the expansion of domestic wind power. At a converted Navy base in North Charleston, this one-of-a-kind center will test large drivetrains – the machinery that converts wind energy to electricity. With $45 million of Recovery Act funding from the Department of Energy, and another $53 million matched by private funding, the test facility will allow engineers to simulate 20 years worth of wear and tear on large drivetrains in only a few months. Some of the wind gust exposure tests made possible by this facility will not be replicable anywhere else in the world.
The South Carolina test center complements another facility in opening in Massachusetts within six months that will test large blades.
What do I mean by large? Manufacturers have proposed wind turbines capable of generating up to 10 megawatts of power – 100 times the capacity of the wind turbines typically installed in the early 1980s. The new blade designs sweep a circle in the sky equivalent to two football fields in diameter. These ultra-large turbines will be especially important for the offshore wind industry, where project economics often favor the use of larger machines.
Both the South Carolina and Massachusetts centers will provide companies with the resources they need to test designs right here in America -- helping to improve reliability, bolster domestic manufacturing and create clean energy jobs. It’s another crucial step toward building the clean energy economy and ensuring our global competitiveness while protecting our environment.