The South Carolina Lowcountry’s primary provider of electricity, SCE&G, partnered with Clemson University to dedicate the world’s most-advanced energy systems testing and research center.
The world-class facility was named the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center during a dedication that marks the beginning of groundbreaking research, education and innovation at the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) campus. SCE&G supported the center with a $3.5 million gift. “We will always be grateful for their support and trust, as we are to the many public and private partners that helped the Clemson team make this incredible project a reality,” Clemson University President James Barker said.
The center houses the world’s most-advanced wind-turbine drivetrain testing facility capable of full-scale highly accelerated mechanical and electrical testing of advanced drivetrain systems for wind turbines. A drivetrain takes energy generated by a turbine’s blades and increases the rotational speed to drive the electrical generator, similar to the transmission in a car.
Speaking to an international audience of more than 1,000 people, including elected representatives, U.S. Department of Energy officials and industry executives from around the world, Barker said the facility places South Carolina at the forefront of energy systems testing and research.
“Clemson University is renowned for groundbreaking research, supercomputing, engineering and workforce development, but the Innovation Center and eGRID take the University to another level,” continued Barker. “The fact that two such prestigious companies have put their names on this building undoubtedly will help us attract additional industry partners.”
The versatility of the facilities will enable Clemson engineers to engage in an array of mechanical and electrical systems testing for a broad range of energy markets. Such a unique environment means Clemson students will experience an education that goes far beyond a traditional classroom environment.
Testing and research at the Innovation Center will encompass many facets of the electrical market to help transform the electrical infrastructure into a more distributed, resilient and efficient system. Focus areas include energy storage; solar energy; wind energy; traditional energy sources, such as natural gas and diesel systems; smart-grid and micro-grid technologies; fuel cells; aerospace systems; electric vehicle charging systems; grid security; and others.
Space in the Energy Innovation Center is designed for public-private partnerships to house Clemson University personnel and students with company partners. The SCE&G Energy Innovation Center can test drivetrains on two test rigs: one up to 7.5 megawatts and the other up to 15 megawatts. Weighing more than a Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet filled with fuel, passengers and luggage, the facility’s 15-megawatt test rig includes specifications that are so large many of its components have never before been designed.
The $98 million testing facility was funded by a $45 million Energy Department grant and matched by $53 million of public and private funds. The grant’s objective is to accelerate development of new technology for the wind market in order to reduce the cost of energy. The facility’s mission is to provide high-value, high-quality and cost-competitive testing services to industry, and to establish long-term workforce development, research and education partnerships.
“SCE&G is pleased to be a sponsor and partner in this project,” said Kevin Marsh, chairman and chief executive officer of SCANA Corporation, the parent company of SCE&G. “The energy industry is a growing and changing industry. It is important for the private sector to work with public partners such as the U.S. Department of Energy and Clemson University to address the opportunities and challenges that face our industry. We look forward to the developments that will result from this collaborative research effort.”