Clemens University, SC has been awarded $98M to test new and very large wind turbine drive trains. The newly announced facility could eventually lead to thousands of new green jobs for the state and help establish South Carolina as a hub for offshore wind turbine manufacturing & servicing.
In the largest research grant in the university’s 120-year history, Clemson University, SC has been awarded almost $100M to for a major new facility for wind turbine drive train testing to be built at Restoration Institute campus at the former Navy base in Charleston. Officials at the South Carolina school said that this could eventually lead to the creation of thousands of new green jobs in the state.
The project has been awarded a $45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy that will be combined with $53 million in state and private matching funds. Clemson officials said that funding will become available by the end of this coming January, with construction expected to begin next year. The facility should be up and running by the end of 2012, said Imtiaz Haque, a mechanical engineering professor at Clemson.
“This positions Clemson and South Carolina to become national leaders in the development of wind energy and to benefit from the green economy,” Clemson President Jim Barker said during a conference call on the announcement.
The new facility will test larger newer wind turbine drivetrains, rated to produce from 5 megawatts to 15 megawatts of power. A drive train takes energy generated by a turbine’s blades and increases the rotational speed to drive the electrical generator. This is not your cars transmission the gear boxes that will be tested at this facility are big… really big.
“You’re talking about a gear box that may be 20 feet in diameter and 60 feet long that can weigh over 100 tons,” Executive Director of the Campbell Graduate Engineering Research Center in Greenville Dr. Imtiaz Haque said.
“Wind power holds tremendous potential to help create new jobs and reduce carbon pollution,” said U.S. Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu. “We are at the beginning of a new Industrial Revolution when it comes to clean energy and projects like these will help us get there faster.”
“As the wind energy market emerges along the East Coast and turbines continue to grow in size and weight, South Carolina is strategically positioned to serve as an industrial hub for this evolving industry,” said John Kelly, executive director of the Restoration Institute. “Obviously this is the beginning of what we hope will be the location for manufacturers.”
This new testing facility will help propel this region to the forefront of US offshore wind development. South Carolina already has the makings of a wind energy cluster, General Electric has a massive turbine manufacturing plant near Greenville, and several bearings companies and other suppliers have set up shop nearby. South Carolina and nearby North Carolina also enjoy significant wind energy potential in their offshore waters, also an argument for developing this region as a wind energy cluster.
In order to fully benefit from this major new wind energy research and testing facility the local State government and private enterprise in the region will need to work hand in hand to promote the region as a center for offshore wind energy manufacturing and research. Can South Carolina embrace the green economy? Doing so could lead to the creation of tens of thousands of green jobs and build a base for long term prosperity in the region.
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