Clemson Goes Big With Wind Turbine Testing

Yesterday Clemson University announced they’d landed a big deal for testing a huge wind turbine. The world’s most powerful wind turbine, the MHI Vestas V164-9.5 MW, will be tested at Clemson’s world-class energy innovation center in North Charleston, SC. The facility, equipped with large test rigs, will be able to simulate 20+ years worth of field conditions on the turbines and measure their response and interaction with the grid in just a few years’ time, and then MHI Vestas will be able to optimize the turbines’ performance and reliability.

The V164-9.5 MW is the most powerful wind turbine in the world, with a rated capacity of 9.5 megawatts, enough to power hundreds, if not thousands, of homes per year with just one turbine. Last year, the turbine broke the record for amount of electricity produced in one day at an installation in Denmark, when it generated 216 MWh in 24 hours–enough to power about 15 Southern homes for an entire year. When the Clemson Energy Innovation Center opened in 2013, the largest deployed turbine at the time was 6 MW, however, with an eye to the future, Clemson designed the facility to allow testing of up to 15 MW turbines. That’s a good thing since this turbine is already more than one and a half times bigger than the commercial turbines of just 5 years ago.

SACE staff at the Clemson Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility 15 MW test bed grand opening in 2013.

The new MHI Vestas turbine is also important because it could become a significant asset for U.S. offshore wind installations. The first U.S. offshore wind farm connected to the grid earlier this year in Rhode Island using 6 MW GE turbines. Several other offshore wind projects under development in the U.S. plan to use 4-6 MW turbines, but some newer projects, such as the Skipjack Maryland offshore project propose to use 8 MW turbines. The U.S. offshore wind development pipeline now includes 28 proposed projects, representing almost 24 GW of capacity, and these are sure to use more productive turbines as they hit the market.

MHI Vestas’s partnership with Clemson, a $35 million investment, will direct as much as $23 million over five years to Clemson and stimulate the employment of a dozen high-tech jobs. The project is a significant step forward in advancing offshore wind in the U.S. and promoting Clemson as a top tier institution in wind energy expertise. Clemson’s announcement of the news explained that, “The deal with Clemson University marks MHI Vestas Offshore Wind’s first major investment in the United States, catapulting the U.S. into a leadership position in offshore wind as the country will now be testing the world’s most powerful wind turbine. It is anticipated that visitors from around the world will come to Clemson to see the test setup.”

“Clemson’s facilities are second-to-none and will enable MHI Vestas to accelerate their technology to the market and usher in a new source of renewable energy vital to our energy future. Not only will this work advance wind turbine technology, it will propagate over into the education of our students and advancement of scientific knowledge. It is a true win-win for our respective institutions.” – Randy Collins, Clemson University, Associate Vice President in Charleston

South Carolina has already begun to play a leadership role in the developing offshore wind market in the U.S. with the second greatest statewide offshore wind potential (enough wind to produce more than 100% of the electricity South Carolina uses) and 33 businesses in the wind energy supply chain. The Clemson-MHI Vestas partnership is a big step forward in realizing the economic potential of offshore wind for South Carolina and the Southeast.

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