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Clemson University Newsroom
March 25, 2010

CHARLESTON — South Carolina possesses the keys to developing an offshore wind industry, but the state needs to come together to overcome the challenges associated with such a huge project, a leading Clemson University wind-energy expert said this week.

Nick Rigas, director of renewable energy at the Clemson University Restoration Institute and director and senior scientist of what will be the world’s largest wind-turbine drive-train testing facility, said there is enormous potential for wind power in South Carolina waters.

Speaking at a two-day workshop this week on South Carolina offshore wind development, Rigas said the state is home to established port facilities, shallow offshore waters, wind resources and a large and growing coastal demand center for electricity.

Further, the state has an existing wind-energy industry through the presence of GE Energy, Ilgin and other corporations. German wind-industry manufacturer IMO Group this month selected Dorchester County as the site for its first U.S. factory.

The state has become an important player in the nation’s emerging offshore wind industry, Rigas said, based largely on what he called a “grass roots” movement. It’s time to take it to the next level, he said.

“The Lowcountry is strategically located to become an East Coast wind-energy hub,” Rigas said. “But we need to take that grass roots effort and do something with it.”

Central to development of this industry is Clemson University’s wind-turbine drive-train testing facility at the Restoration Institute in North Charleston. Last November, when the U.S. Department of Energy selected Clemson’s proposal for the facility from a highly competitive grant process, South Carolina was placed on the map of the world’s wind-energy industry.

But many challenges remain, he said. They include the need for ongoing technical innovation, established permitting guidelines and public policy, and the desire to be the first to “take the plunge.”

The United States has no offshore wind farms, in large part because of the upfront costs associated with their development. A tipping point must come, he said.

“Like any industry, until it reaches a critical mass the cost remains high,” he said.

The workshop was held at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in Charleston and was organized by the Regulatory Task Force for Coastal Clean Energy, the S.C. Energy Office and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

Topics during the two days included permitting issues and management and planning needs.

During the first day of the workshop Wednesday, Rigas discussed South Carolina’s potential for wind-energy development. On Thursday, he discussed onshore infrastructure needs for offshore wind-energy development.

Key components of offshore farms include research and development institutions, nearby commercial port facilities with extensive lay-down areas to stage large equipment, manufacturing facilities and other preparation areas.

“Offshore wind farms provide unique challenges in terms of site access,” Rigas said. “All these factors drive the costs.”


Summit sponsors
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management; S.C. Sea Grant Consortium; S.C. Department of Natural Resources; S.C. Energy Office; city of Charleston; SCANA; Research Planning Inc.; Energy Ventures LLC; General Electric.

Clemson University Restoration Institute
The mission of the Clemson University Restoration Institute is to advance knowledge in integrative approaches to the restoration and sustainability of historic, ecological and urban infrastructure resources, and drive economic growth. The institute’s vision is to build a sustainable future through education, collaborative restoration research and strategic partnerships.