Clemson Dedicates Drivetrain Testing and Grid Simulator Facility


The Energy Systems Innovation Center—the world’s largest wind turbine drivetrain testing facility and the first-of-its-kind smart grid simulator—opened in November.

The 82,264-square-foot, $98 million facility, which includes $53M of private and state contributions, stretches across 6.3 acres strategically located at the Clemson University Restoration Institute’s (CURI) campus at the former U.S. Naval Base in North Charleston, South Carolina. The location offers a working port facility on the East Coast and worldwide access to wind turbine innovators through road, rail or ship.

The global leaders in wind turbine manufacturing serve on the Industrial Advisory Board with key industry players already requesting time in the facility for testing of their next generation turbines. Modeled after the success of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, the facility will forge public/private partnerships in a unique industrial, port environment.

The center houses both 7.5MW and 15MW capacity test rigs—weighing a combined 550 tons. Each rig features an off-axis and bending moment static load applicator capable of reproducing forces seen in real-world conditions. Additionally, the center features a 15MW Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL) Grid Simulator, leveraging the electrical infrastructure of the Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility and allowing turbine generator manufacturers to test both mechanical and electrical characteristics of their machines in a well controlled and calibrated environment. The simulator will allow for testing of the wind turbine generators compatibility to 50 or 60 Hz electrical transmission grids. This is important to ensure the wind turbines have minimal impact to the existing grid as well as grid disturbances having minimal impact on the machines.

In November of 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Clemson University a $45 million grant to build and operate a facility capable of full-scale, highly accelerated testing of next-generation wind turbine technology. The U.S. DOE EERE’s objective for this project is to accelerate the development and deployment of next-generation wind turbine technology to reduce the cost of energy delivered. The mission of the facility will forge public-private partnerships in a unique industrial coastal environment and support the nation’s emerging offshore wind industry and educate the workforce of the future. The project has received additional investments from GE Energy, Shell, SCE&G, Duke Energy among others.

The Clemson University Restoration Institute hosted the dedication, alongside the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

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