Wind Turbine Test Center Coming To Clemson

Proving that talk of building a new Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility isn’t just a lot of hot air, Clemson University reports that construction has begun on the facility in North Charleston, S.C., which we first reported on a few years back. The project involves completely redeveloping an 82,000-square-foot warehouse on a former Navy base to house a largescale testing facility for next-generation wind turbine drivetrains.

Made possible by a $45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to Clemson and its partners back in 2009 — along with $53 million of matching funds —  the facility will be equipped for the full-scale, accelerated testing of advanced drivetrain systems for wind turbines in the 5 to 15-megawatt (MW) range. A drive train takes energy generated by a turbine’s blades and increases the rotational speed to drive the electrical generator, similar to the transmission in a car.

Clemson wind turbine test facility

image via Clemson University

The Clemson facility also will have 50 hertz and 60 hertz testing capability, making it suitable for testing turbines (and associated technologies) destined for anywhere in the world. The facility will be housed at the Clemson University Restoration Institute, with engineering design performed by AEC Engineering.

The scale of the project is considerable, as the amount of concrete required to pour the foundation of the 7.5-MW test rig foundation — 25 feet wide by 86 feet long by 10 feet deep, all resting on 75 steel piles — totaled 750 cubic yards. That’s enough concrete to cover a road about 1.5 miles long, or to fill a third of the cargo space of a Boeing 747 freight jetliner; it took nearly 100 trucks to transport to the job site.

Jim Tuten, Clemson project manager for the testing facility, said a strong working relationship was necessary from everyone involved in the project to properly plan and execute this highly sensitive (and no doubt expensive) concrete pour, which forms the cornerstone of the testing facility. “The mere scale of this project means we’re breaking new ground on a regular basis,” he said, in a statement. “We keep the lines of communication flowing freely.”

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.