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A photo of a large dynamometer in a warehouse.
In May, two of our nation’s most advanced wind research and test facilities joined forces to help the wind energy industry improve the performance of wind turbine drivetrains and better understand how the turbines can integrate effectively with the electrical grid. Through a cooperative research and development agreement, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Clemson University will partner to share resources and capabilities in the operation and development of testing facilities. The agreement also includes the exchange of staff for training, research, and development purposes, including collaborative participation in facility commissioning and testing activities.

NREL, with support from the Wind Program in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, leads the way in developing custom facilities and capabilities to enable testing of full-scale integrated wind turbine drivetrain systems in accordance with the needs of the wind industry. NREL currently operates 2.5-megawatt (MW) and 5-MW dynamometers and a controllable grid interface, a grid simulator that can help engineers better understand how wind turbines will react to grid disturbances.

Supported by a $47 million DOE investment in addition to approximately $60 million in other funds, Clemson University is currently operating a drivetrain testing facility, the South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) Energy Innovation Center, with 7.5-MW and 15-MW dynamometers and a 15-MW grid simulator. Both NREL and Clemson University have installed hardware-in-the-loop modeling and control capabilities to complement their testing facilities.

A photo of a large dynamometer in a warehouse in Clemson.
“Our partnership with Clemson is an excellent example of how a university and a national laboratory can work together,” said Brian Smith, acting center director for the National Wind Technology Center at NREL. “The collaborative efforts of these two research entities will complement one another for the technical advancement and large-scale deployment of wind and water power.”

“Clemson University’s mission of promoting public/private partnerships to develop new technologies for the energy industry and educate the workforce of the future at the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center and NREL’s activities at the National Wind Technology Center share a lot of common ground,” said Dr. Nikolaos Rigas, executive director, Clemson University Restoration Institute. “This agreement will provide the framework for further collaboration and technical exchanges that benefit both organizations and brings a stronger team together to tackle broader challenges related to energy.”

Read more about NREL’s test facilities and wind energy research.

Read more about the Clemson University Restoration Institute and the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center.