Clemson's wind turbine testing facility to bring thousands of jobs statewide

By Nicole Johnson  bio | email | Twitter

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -  Clemson University broke ground on a new facility in North Charleston Thursday. The facility will test wind turbines as an alternative energy source.

The school received a $45 million grant from the Energy Department, which was the largest grant ever awarded to the school. The money will help the school develop a campus and test facility at the old Navy Base on Truxtun Road. It will be the only facility of its kind in the world. It could the first step in creating up to 20,000 manufacturing related jobs statewide.

A total of $98 million of public and private money will be used for the Clemson University Restoration Institute where researchers will do the wind turbine testing.

"Today, after a year of planning and really thinking hard about how the project will come together, today we actually do the groundbreaking," John Kelly, VP of Clemson and Executive Director of the Research Institute said Thursday.

The wind turbine testing facility is being recognized by companies across the globe. The German company IMO Group decided to move its manufacturing facility here because the research. Siemens Corporation looks forward to sending its wind turbine gear parts here for testing.

"It's going to be very interesting to have a facility that's coastal in location for us. This is a very interesting, unique idea. It's got a great deal of value, not only to us, but the industry in general," Richard Thomas of Siemens Corporation said.

Additionally, Clemson will develop a nearly 90-acre campus at the old Navy Base by renovating existing buildings and building a new graduate student center, where advanced engineering degrees will be offered.

Kelly says the old navy warehouse was a good fit for testing the large turbines.

"This is probably the only place that I know of in the world where a research university is located adjacent to deep water shipping. When you think about that partnership we have the chance to handle extremely large specimen that may come in by boat," Kelly said.

Testing at the facility is set to begin by fall of 2012.  Clemson undergraduate interns, graduate students and research engineers are already taking part in projects at the site.

The City of North Charleston unanimously voted to donate the land for Clemson's campus and testing facility. The DOE grant money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as stimulus money.

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