Wind turbine test facility opens in South Carolina
The estimated value of the U.S wind energy market is thought to reach $100 billion by 2033. Boeing alone has invested $1.1 billion in the Charleston area over the past 8 years. A new $110 million Energy Systems Innovation Centre in North Charleston, South Carolina is due to open in March 2014 and will be the most powerful wind turbine testing facility in the world.
Testing wind turbine rigs to ensure that the massive 110 metre blades work efficiently and reliably for their 20 year life span is an essential part of making renewable energy the energy of the future.
Maintenance is one of the main operational costs of the machines and so reducing the need for expensive and difficult fixes to any problems that occur when the turbines are installed offshore will bring overall costs down significantly.
The testing facility in South Charleston has two huge testing rig dynamometers on its six acre site, capable of generating varying wind conditions, including hurricanes. The huge output of the rigs ranges from 7.5 megawatts to 15 megawatts.
Usually the depth of testing for a range of factors such as torque, pitch and speed would take years to complete in order to certify that the turbines are able to cope with offshore wind conditions. However, the state of the art Innovation Centre reduces this to a timespan of just a few months.
In terms of usage the aim is to make the Energy Systems Innovation Centre open to any company that needs it. Manufacturers will be able to rent the facilities for as long as they need to test their products and iron out any last minute problems.
3.5% of electricity generated in the U.S last year was from wind. This converts to 60 gigawatts which is enough power to supply 15 million homes. The U.S Department of Energy has plans to increase this percentage to 20 by the year 2030. The U.S wind energy sector currently employs 80,000 people, so this will be positive not only for the environment but also the domestic labour market.