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Background

On Nov. 23, 2009 the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy awarded a $45 million grant – the largest single award in university history and largest single grant by the US DOE for wind power – to Clemson University.  The purpose of the grant was to design, build and operate a facility capable of full-scale, highly accelerated testing of next-generation wind turbine drive-train technology.

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy objectives for the project are to:
  • Accelerate the development and deployment of new wind turbine technology.
  • Reduce the cost of energy delivered that will result in further growth in the market leading to economic development.
  • Support the country’s push towards energy independence.

The $98M facility which includes $53M of private and state contributions is strategically located at the Clemson University Restoration Institute’s (CURI) campus at the former US Naval Base in North Charleston, South Carolina. The location offers a working port facility on the East Coast and worldwide access to wind turbine innovators through road, rail or ship. The global leaders in wind turbine manufacturing serve on the Industrial Advisory Board with key industry players already requesting time in the facility for testing of their next generation turbines. Modeled after the success of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, the facility will forge public/private partnerships in a unique industrial, port environment.

The South Carolina Lowcountry’s primary provider of electricity, together with the nation’s largest utility, joined Clemson University on November 21, 2013 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. 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.

Duke Energy named the 15-megawatt hardware-in-the-loop grid simulator the Duke Energy eGRID — Electrical Grid Research Innovation and Development — Center. The eGRID, housed in the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center, supports education, research and economic development to speed new electrical technologies to market. Hardware-in-the-loop is when a device is connected to a system — in this case an electrical device connected to a simulated electrical grid — and the device performs under test as it would under actual conditions. The eGRID can simulate the electrical grid of any country in the world. Duke Energy is contributing $5 million to help fund laboratory infrastructure and educational program development and fund a Smart Grid Technology Endowed Chair. Duke Energy employees also will provide the center with ongoing technical expertise and resources.

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