Advances in wind turbine technology will reduce costs associated with offshore wind farms and help make the first U.S. offshore wind farm a reality, according to Nick Rigas, director of renewable energy at the Clemson University Restoration Institute's wind turbine drivetrain testing facility. He recently spoke at the American Wind Energy Association's Wind Power Supply Chain Workshop.
Technology has grown significantly since the earliest commercial wind turbines debuted in the early 1980s. Thirty years ago, typical turbines stood in the 50 kW range. Today, turbines of 2 MW to 3 MW are common, with 7 MW prototypes being developed, according to Rigas.
As companies manufacture larger turbines – especially those for offshore use – the reliability of these giant machines becomes even more important, Rigas said, adding that Clemson's facility will test drivetrains for the next generation of wind turbines.
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the Restoration Institute $45 million to build a testing facility. That grant was matched with $53 million from public and private partners.
Rigas is responsible for design, construction and operation of the facility that will test wind turbine drivetrains in the 5 MW to 15 MW range with 30% overload capacity.