Steven Chu helps dedicate wind turbine

"I think the things that Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College is doing are very, very important for the future of the United States," U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Tuesday, as officials cut the ribbon on OCtech’s tilt-up wind turbine.

The wind turbine is in the college’s Renewable Energy Park in the rear of the campus. The Renewable Energy Park was developed through the college’s participation in the "Career Pathways for a Green South" project.

"Career Pathways for a Green South" is a multistate project designed to create a new green technology work force throughout the South.

Sixth District Congressman Jim Clyburn said, "As we grapple with the future of this great country of ours, we know that what is going to be very, very critical to the future is getting off our of dependence on foreign oil.

"Number two is lessening the impact of fossil fuels on the creation of industry. And number three is creating new jobs for the future. I believe South Carolina is poised to be a very important player in the sources of energy going forward."

The wind farm has two wind turbines, plus solar panels. OCtech President Dr. Walter Tobin Jr. said the goal is for students to be trained in turbine use and other aspects of the equipment.

"I think it is a great opportunity for the Orangeburg community and a good opportunity for the college in putting our students in a position to be more marketable and to address the renewable energy needs in this area and in the state of South Carolina," Tobin said.

The concept of the Renewable Energy Park began about two years ago with the prompting of faculty, said Dr. Jim Payne, National Science Foundation project manager.

"We have had student interns doing the work and they designed it," Payne said. The project was developed by the faculty of the Computer, Engineering and Industrial Technology Department.

Students will be involved in collecting the energy created by the turbine and solar panels. Students in the instrumentation program will be learning from the project — how to program, monitor and repair wind turbines at a distance.

The Renewable Energy Park was a result of the partnership of OCtech and the South Carolina Office of Energy, and is funded through a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education and U.S. Department of Energy grant. The goal of the grant is to increase the number of students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"The college has made a significant investment into alternative or renewable energy," Tobin said. The energy park also serves as a recruitment tool by giving high school students something to look at and think about in terms of choosing a career. It also aims to provide an opportunity for school children to learn about alternative fuels, Payne said.

Payne said, while the park is primarily being used for research and teaching, the solar panels could heat water to run a biodiesel process and power an electric car charging station.

"The Orangeburg area is not a major resource" for wind power, Payne said. "We don’t have that kind of wind as they do on the coast or in the mountains. As far as solar power, Orangeburg is an excellent site."

Gene Zaleski, The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.,