Advances in wind turbines technology will reduce costs associated with offshore wind farm

Central to that movement is the Clemson University Restoration Institute’s wind turbine drive-train testing facility at its North Charleston research campus.

Nick Rigas, director of Renewable Energy at the institute and director and senior scientist of the drive-train testing facility, told the American Wind Energy Association’s Wind Power Supply Chain Workshop that research and innovation will help drive the wind industry forward.

Technology has grown significantly since the earliest commercial wind turbines debuted in the early 1980s. Thirty years ago, typical wind turbines stood in the 50 kilowatts range. Today, wind turbines of two to three megawatts are common, with seven-megawatt prototypes being developed.

As companies manufacture larger wind turbines, especially those for offshore use, the reliability of these giant machines becomes even more important. Clemson’s facility will test drive trains for the next generation of wind turbines.

U.S. Department of Energy selected the Restoration Institute and its partners to build a one-of-a-kind testing facility. The energy department awarded the institute a $45 million grant that was matched with $53 million from public and private partners.

Rigas has overall responsibility for design, construction and operation of what will be the only facility in the world capable of testing wind turbine drive trains in the five- to 15-megawatt range with 30 percent overload capacity.

The goal of companies that will use Clemson’s facility will be to improve reliability and efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. And the demand is clear, Rigas said.

Twenty-eight coastal states consume about eighty percent of the nation’s electricity. Wind farms off the U.S. East Coast would receive plenty of wind, and their locations would mean the electricity they generate could be brought directly back to those demand centers.

“More and more people are moving to the coast, especially to the Southeast, so the demand continues to grow,” Rigas said.

More than 300 people from around the Southeast, including wind power project developers and economic development agencies, attended the conference.

Clemson University Restoration Institute: The mission of the Clemson University Restoration Institute is to advance knowledge in integrative approaches to the restoration and sustainability of historic, ecological and urban infrastructure resources, and drive economic growth. The institute’s vision is to build a sustainable future through education, collaborative restoration research and strategic partnerships.

With more than 2,500 members and advocates, the American Wind Energy Association is a national trade association that represents wind power project developers, equipment suppliers, services providers, parts manufacturers, utilities, researchers and others involved in the wind industry. It also represents hundreds of wind energy advocates from around the world.