The Palmetto State Stands Tall in the Wind Energy Industry

Guest Blog | April 14, 2015 | Energy Policy, Events, Wind
South Carolina Onshore Wind Resources
This map shows some of the areas with wind resources suited for development with newer, taller turbines. Source: Adapted from NREL's 110 meter hub height wind speed map for areas achieving 35% capacity factors or greater (November, 2014).

This is the seventh post in a blog series discussing state-by-state highlights of wind energy throughout the South in the lead up to the WINDPOWER Expo in Orlando, FL, May 18 – 21. See the rest of the series here.

New wind turbine technology is a game changer for clean energy opportunities in South Carolina. Taller turbines and longer blades are capable of capturing more wind, which results in generating more electricity and reducing costs. In just five years, wind turbines have greatly evolved and are now more suitable for the Southeast. One modern wind turbine can now power the equivalent of about 600 homes a year!

New wind speed maps released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) demonstrate the greatly increased potential for wind turbine development in South Carolina with advanced turbines. As wind turbines increase in height and are able to access better wind speeds, more areas become attractive for wind energy development within South Carolina. The shading on the map above represents newly available land for wind development with modern turbines with towers of 360 feet (110 meters) achieving a 35% capacity factor or greater. With these new wind turbines, over 10,000 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind potential currently exist in South Carolina. Developing just one gigawatt of wind energy capacity (1,000 MW) in South Carolina (just 10% of the state’s onshore potential) could power more than 255,500 homes a year!

Photo of SACE at Clemson Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility Grand Opening
SACE staff at the Clemson WTDTF grand opening, standing in front of the 15 megawatt turbine test bed.

Based on the Jobs and Economic Development Index model, developed by NREL, developing one gigawatt worth of onshore wind energy capacity in South Carolina could support approximately 4,500 direct, indirect and induced jobs during construction and 136 ongoing operations jobs with a total annual payroll of $6.5 million. In addition, Clemson University reported in 2012 that developing one gigawatt of offshore wind could support approximately 3,879 jobs (257 of which would be ongoing operations jobs), and annually contribute $366 million in output and $61.6 million in local and state government revenue. At least one wind farm development company has expressed interest in developing the state’s first onshore wind farm.

Although South Carolina has yet to develop a wind farm, the state is already supporting the wind industry. In June 2014, the South Carolina legislature passed a resolution supporting the development of the state’s vast offshore wind resources. This is now the fourth such statement in support of wind power that has been passed in South Carolina, following the efforts of the cities of North Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and North Charleston. Since November 2013, North Charleston has also been home to the world’s largest wind turbine drivetrain test facility – capable of testing wind turbine generators with capacities of up to 15 megawatts (that’s 15,000 kilowatts). The WDTF facility was initially supported by a $45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and matched by private sector, state and local government contributions totaling $55 million, and represents the state’s largest single investment, ever. South Carolina has some of the best offshore wind resources in the country. 

South Carolina is also currently home to at least 33 wind energy-related business serving the domestic and international wind industry markets. In 2012, there were more than 2,900 direct, indirect, and induced jobs provided by the wind industry in South Carolina. Developing land-based wind in the state could greatly add to local economic benefits and create more wind energy-related jobs. A few of the wind energy-related manufacturing facilities in South Carolina include:

  • General Electric, Greenville, South Carolina – GE assembles wind turbines at its Greenville facility.
  • IMO Group, North Charleston, South Carolina – IMO manufactures slew rings and drives, as well as bearings, to help keep turbines running smoothly.
  • PPG Industries, Chester, South Carolina – PPG manufactures fiberglass, which is a raw material necessary to construct wind turbine blades.
  • Prysmian Group, Lexington, South Carolina – Prysmian manufactures power cables and was recently selected to provide cables for the Cape Wind offshore wind project.

The Southeastern Wind Coalition has published wind energy fact sheets on this state and others from around the Southeast. You can access those fact sheets here.

As the Southeast becomes a new frontier for wind energy, it is only fitting that the largest wind energy conference of the year will be in Orlando, Florida. Join us in Orlando, May 18-21, 2015 for the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) annual WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition. Each year, the event draws thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibitors all looking to advance the wind industry. WINDPOWER features over 30 sessions ranging from market and policy analysis, to project performance and technical advancements in wind energy. It’s an excellent way to connect with subject matter experts–anyone interested in the wind industry should plan on attending. As a benefit to you for reading our blog, you can use this discount code to receive $50 off the full registration: SPKWP50.

We hope you can join us in Orlando to learn more about wind energy opportunities for South Carolina and the entire Southeast! You can register here. 

Credit: American Wind Energy Association


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