Link to Press Release in CU Newsroom
Clemson University Newsroom
June 16, 2011

Accelerating new technologies to market is a key to a sustainable energy future in the U.S., a leading Clemson University scientist said Thursday.

Nick Rigas, senior scientist and director of the wind-turbine drivetrain testing facility at the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston, said new technology must be competitive with existing forms of energy for the nation to diversify its energy sources and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Speaking during a panel session on new energy technologies at the 2011 MUSC Public Information and Community Outreach (PICO) Securing our Future conference in downtown Charleston, Rigas said the need to quickly transfer innovation to market is one of the reasons the U.S. Department of Energy funded a $45 million grant to build the drivetrain testing facility.

The facility, which was matched with $53 million in public and private funds, will help develop advances in wind-energy technology. Traditionally, wind-turbine manufacturers have tested in the field, which is costly and time-consuming, Rigas said.

The testing facility, which is scheduled for completion by the end of next year, will be capable of full-scale highly accelerated testing of advanced drivetrain systems for wind turbines in the five-megawatt to 15-megawatt range with a 30 percent overload capacity.

Such capability is three times great than any available today. As such, the facility will allow controlled testing under a variety of conditions for next-generation technologies, giving manufacturers the flexibility to push the boundaries and drive the industry forward.

“Innovation will drive economic growth and work force development,” Rigas said. “It’s a long-term vision that requires a long-term commitment.”

The conference, which concludes Friday, features presentations and discussions on alternative energy, including building a new energy policy, transportation technologies and national energy policy.

The conference is sponsored by MUSC and S.C. State University and is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and URS Corp.

Thursday’s keynote speaker, Arun Majumdar, director of advanced research projects and acting undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, said history shows innovation changes society. Such innovations have included electricity, air travel, the Internet and email.

“It’s unthinkable to live today without these innovations,” he said. “Imagine all of this happening for clean energy.”

There’s plenty of motivation, he said. The future of U.S. security is national, economic and environmental.

At the foundation of these securities is innovation in energy technology, he said. When you consider the U.S. spends $1 billion a day on foreign oil “it’s fundamental.”