Clemson getting $98M for wind turbine test facility officials say could mean thousands of jobs

By Meg Kinnard, AP
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Clemson to get $98M for wind energy test facility

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Clemson University is getting nearly $100 million to study wind energy, funding that officials at the South Carolina school said Monday could eventually lead to thousands of new jobs for the state.

“This positions Clemson and South Carolina to become national leaders in the development of wind energy and benefit from the green economy,” said school President James Barker. “We believe it will have a tremendous positive benefit for the state.”

The new facility for wind turbine drive train testing will be part of the Clemson University Restoration Institute campus at the former Navy base in Charleston. A drive train takes energy generated by a turbine’s blades and increases the rotational speed to drive the electrical generator, like the transmission in a car.

It needs to be near the state’s coastline, and not at Clemson’s main campus in the state’s northwestern corner because the 200-ton wind turbines being tested will likely arrive by sea, officials 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.”

Chu, who is scheduled to visit Clemson’s main campus on Nov. 30 for a symposium on green energy, says the facility will create needed jobs and could eventually help lower energy costs for consumers.

The Energy Department gave Clemson $45 million in federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. State and private sources provided $53 million in matching funds, for a total of $98 million, officials said.

Several other states have received stimulus funds to study wind energy but they pale in comparison to Clemson’s award. Last week, Michigan State University announced it had received nearly $84,000 to measure wind speeds around the state. And the University of New Hampshire has also received $700,000 in federal stimulus funds to help develop three deep water wind energy test sites in the Gulf of Maine.

Clemson officials said that funding will become available by the end of 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.

Officials estimated that the facility will initially employ at least 100 people, but some say the overall job benefit could be exponentially greater. Building off of the new facility’s research, the Energy Department has estimated that the wind industry in South Carolina could eventually provide anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 jobs.

“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.”

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