South Carolina Opens Nation’s Largest Wind Drivetrain Testing Facility

November 27, 2013

The Energy Department and Clemson University officials on November 21 dedicated the nation’s largest wind energy testing facility in North Charleston, South Carolina. The facility will help test and validate new turbines, particularly for offshore wind—helping to speed deployment of next generation energy technology, reduce costs for manufacturers, and boost global competitiveness for American companies.

Supported by a $47 million Energy Department investment as well as about $60 million in outside funding, the facility is equipped with two testing bays—for up to 7.5-megawatt and 15-megawatt drivetrains, respectively. The facility will also feature a grid simulator that mimics real-world conditions and can help private industry and public researchers better study interactions between wind energy technologies and the U.S. power grid.

Located at a former Navy warehouse with easy access to rail and water transport, the Clemson facility will test machinery that converts both onshore and offshore wind to electricity and allow engineers to simulate 20 years’ worth of wear and tear on drivetrains in a few months. The facility’s proximity to the coast also makes it ideal for U.S. and international companies testing larger offshore wind turbines.

These efforts build off the Energy Department’s National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colorado, which recently dedicated a new five-megawatt dynamometer to further strengthen its capabilities and conduct research on stronger, more durable wind drivetrains for land-based wind farms. Connected to a grid simulator as well as multi-megawatt turbines that are operating at the center, the new dynamometer will also help study grid interactions and test energy storage devices simultaneously. See the Energy Department press release.