Clemson/ City of Charleston Focus on Wind Energy – Very Impressive

Last night, I was channel surfing and happened upon a weekly show called “Carolina Business Review” on PBS, which I watch from time to time. Last night, one of the three guests was the retiring President of Clemson University, James Barker who is an architect and professor of architecture by profession. During the discussion which included Ivan Urlaub, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, Clemson’s efforts toward sustainable energy initiatives were highlighted as great examples for others to follow.

The Clemson Restoration institute, among other initiatives, has partnered with the City of Charleston, Santee Cooper, SC Department of Energy, Coastal Carolina University and US Department of Energy, to establish a Wind Turbine Testing Facility along the coast of South Carolina. This effort is backed by numerous wind energy companies who build turbines, such as General Electric, to test and improve upon the veracity of their turbines.

The goals of the Wind Turbine Testing Facility are to:

– improve the reliability and efficiency of the wind turbines;

– reduce capital cost and operating and maintenance costs;

– improve electric grid compatibility (this is key to success); and

– match generation with demand.

More on the mission and goals of the project can be found with the following link:

http://www.clemson.edu/facilities/energy-awareness/projects/windturbine.html

This effort was funded through a $98 million investment, which included a $45 million grant from the US Department of Energy. It is an ideal example of the historical public/ private partnership to fund major initiatives that will move us forward and has been a vital reason for our success as a country over time. And, this kind of investment creates jobs – 20,000 are predicted in the area. The Wind Energy industry already had 75,000 jobs in the US as of last fall, but that number is expected to grow to 500,000 if we take advantage of our wind power by 2030. Also, the industry anticipates 20% growth, which is definitely nothing to sneeze at.

For example, one of the statistics cited showed that 78% of the electricity used in the United States is within 28 coastal states. Our wind is in our plains and mountains, but there is an abundance of wind in our coastal regions, especially just offshore. This is where matching use with need comes to bear. And, unlike nuclear energy, oil derricks, and natural gas fracking sites, the worse thing that happens if a windmill crashes in the water is a splash. Please remember this, as any technology is only good as its worst operator.

Before closing, I also wanted to highlight a few other things that Clemson is doing within the Clemson Restoration Institute. They are focusing on energy initiatives such as: biodiesel, composting, electric vehicle charging, solar energy and sustainable building. President Barker is an impressive person. He has led Clemson to do some impressive things, especially around understanding the needs of businesses in the area and training his students to fulfill roles therein. I hope others are replicating his vision.