Major Step for Wind Power in the Southeast

Stephen Smith | November 24, 2009 | Energy Policy, Wind

This post was co-authored by Dr. Stephen Smith and Toni Reale, SACE’s coastal program coordinator.

This photo simulation (credit: Santee Cooper & Clemson University) compares turbine visibility from 2 to 8 miles from shore (left to right).
This photo simulation (credit: Santee Cooper & Clemson University) compares turbine visibility from 2 to 8 miles from the South Carolina shore (left to right).

On Monday, November 23rd the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $45 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to a consortium led by Clemson University’s Restoration Institute to build the World’s first large offshore wind turbine drive-train testing facility.

This $98 million dollar facility will serve as an anchor for advancing wind power in the Southeast and position South Carolina to be a leader in the development of offshore wind; a critical component of our nation’s emerging clean energy economy.

In the intense competition to win the stimulus money, Clemson University and their partners beat out states like Pennsylvania and Michigan putting South Carolina and its clean renewable energy potential in the national spotlight.

U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis (District-4) told the Greenville News, “This announcement shows that the road to energy independence runs through South Carolina. Visionaries are clearing the right of way, our research universities are building the roadbed, and free enterprise will lay down the asphalt.”

With Wind Comes Economic Development and Jobs

The facility, to be built on the former Navy base in North Charleston, would test the next generation of both land-based and offshore wind turbines that could generate between 5 and 15 MW of power.  This development is rumored to become a magnet for wind energy manufacturers, placing South Carolina as the industrial hub for our nation’s emerging clean energy economy.

Construction of this facility will begin early next year and is slated to be up and running in the third-quarter of 2012.  According to John Kelly, the Executive Director of Clemson’s Restoration Institute, the facility will create approximately 852 direct and indirect jobs in the short term.  In the long term, the Department of Energy estimates that within the next 20 years this emerging industry could create between 10,000 and 20,000 new jobs for South Carolinians.  This announcement is promising news for the 12% of the state’s citizens who are currently out of work.

South Carolina to put the U.S. on Track to a Clean Energy Future

Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu had high praise as he announced the recipient of this grant.  He stated, “We are at the beginning of a new Industrial Revolution when it comes to clean energy and projects like these will help us get there faster.”  Secretary Chu went on to say, “Wind power holds tremendous potential to help create new jobs and reduce carbon pollution.”

Most importantly, the Southeast needs to move quickly to advance offshore wind in our region to meet the goals outlined in 20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply. This report outlines the steps that will bring us to a 20% wind target with offshore development playing a significant role in the coming years. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy reports such as Yes We Can: Southern Solutions for a National RES and Local Clean Power also outline the enormous and promising potential for offshore wind in the Southeast.

This announcement has generated accolades from all levels of government including Senator Lindsey Graham who was quoted in the Greenville News saying the award “moves Clemson University dramatically up the research food chain” and that the University is “in the major leagues of alternative energy research.”

“The importance of this grant should not be understated,” said Nick Rigas, Director of Clemson University’s Restoration Institute’s renewable energy program.  “The state-of-the-art testing facility combined with South Carolina’s strengths that include outstanding port and large-scale ship building facilities, local steel manufacturing and world-renowned research institutions mean the state will play a central role in realizing the nation’s energy goals.”

SACE would like to recognize the significance of this award and what it means for our future.  Wind energy is a free, clean, renewable resource that has the promise to significantly decrease our nation’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels and help to reduce our contribution to global warming pollution.  We congratulate all who were involved with helping the nation realize the enormous potential for offshore wind development off the coast of South Carolina and for putting the Palmetto State in the spotlight on this issue.  We hope to see similar news from more of our southeastern states as we continue to move toward a clean energy future.

SACE’s Wind Energy Resources

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has multiple staff members dedicated to the expansion of wind energy in the Southeast.  They bring incredible expertise to our region and offer free workshops and webinars on wind energy for communities across the Southeast that have the potential to use wind energy to meet their electricity needs.


Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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