skip to main content

Title: Clemson University Wind Turbine Drivetrain Test Facility

In November of 2009, Clemson University was awarded a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to design, build and operate a facility for full-scale, highly accelerated mechanical testing of next-generation wind turbine drivetrain technologies. The primary goal of the project was to design, construct, commission, and operate a state-of-the-art sustainable facility that permits full-scale highly accelerated testing of advanced drivetrain systems for large wind turbines. The secondary goal was to meet the objectives of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, especially in job creation, and provide a positive impact on economically distressed areas in the United States, and preservation and economic recovery in an expeditious manner. The project was executed according to a managed cooperative agreement with the Department of Energy and was an extraordinary success. The resultant new facility is located in North Charleston, SC, providing easy transportation access by rail, road or ship and operates on an open access model such that it is available to the U.S. Wind Industry for research, analysis, and evaluation activities. The 72 m by 97 m facility features two mechanical dynamometer test bays for evaluating the torque and blade dynamic forces experienced by the rotors of wind turbinemore » drivetrains. The dynamometers are rated at 7.5 MW and 15 MW of low speed shaft power and are configured as independent test areas capable of simultaneous operation. All six degrees of freedom, three linear and three rotational, for blade and rotor dynamics are replicated through the combination of a drive motor, speed reduction gearbox and a controllable hydraulic load application unit (LAU). This new LAU setup readily supports accelerated lifetime mechanical testing and load analysis for the entire drivetrain system of the nacelle and easily simulates a wide variety of realistic operating scenarios in a controlled laboratory environment. The development of these two dynamometer test rigs is the first significant achievement for the project. These test rigs embody a new manner of test due to the system configuration and completely new design with a free floating loading hub in the LAU. This project provided the catalyst for the advancement to this new test rig configuration that has been adopted by every significant wind turbine test rig constructed since the inception of this project. There are currently two different vendors supplying these new systems. Catalyzing this new design is the second major success of the project. With the increased market penetration of wind energy over the past decade, many regions and countries have developed specific electrical grid specifications and performance codes for large wind farms to ensure operational reliability and stability. These grid codes provide requirements for interconnection with the grid during low or high voltage phenomena, typically encountered during and after system fault events. Given the installed infrastructure of the Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility (WTDTF), a natural expansion of facility capability was to include the necessary equipment for performing fault ride-through evaluations of wind turbines to the Low Voltage Ride Through (LVRT) codes. Once the decision was made to expand the scope of the original grant into fault ride-through testing, it was clear that there are several markets, not just wind, which could benefit from this type of test and that simple fault ride-through testing could be extended into a broader scope of electrical testing capabilities. It was at this point that Clemson University was awarded a second grant to build a 15 MW Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL) Grid Simulator in order to establish world class electrical testing capabilities to compliment the mechanical testing at the WTDTF. This third significant achievement resulted in the 15 MW HIL Grid Simulator as the corner stone of the Duke Energy eGRID Center and is collocated with the WTDTF in the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center at the new Facility in North Charleston, SC, USA. Before the eGRID was completed, it was recognized that the ability to test solar farm equipment was but a small step away thru the addition of enhanced equipment to provide for DC testing. In yet another expansion/success, a 2.5 MW rectifier system was designed and implemented by Clemson staff to enhance the Center’s capabilities. The program required over 250,000 man-hours of on-site construction labor reworking the brownfield facility on the former Navy Base, clearly satisfying one of the major goals of the Reinvestment Act. This was done while winning numerous awards for design and construction of the facility, including the Top US Project for 2014 from the Trade Journal Engineering News Record. The project was a major collaborative developmental activity managed by Clemson University staff that involved the DOE and many partners and organizations.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [1]
  1. Clemson Univ., SC (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Clemson Univ., SC (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Wind and Water Technologies Office (EE-4W)
Contributing Orgs:
Savannah River National Laboratories, Aiken, SC (United States); Fluor Corp., Greenville, SC (United States); S&ME, Mt. Pleasant, SC (Untied States); South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., Cayce, SC (United States); South Carolina Public Railways, Charleston, SC (United States); Lemessurier Consultants, Boston, MA (United States); AEC Engineering (Now IDOM), Minneapolis, MN (United States); Choate Construction Co., Mt. Pleasant, SC (United States); RMF Engineering, Inc., Charleston, SC (United States); B&B Demolition Specialists LLC, North Charleston, SC (United States); Aiken Cost Consultants, Inc., Greenville, SC (United States); GS2 Engineering & Environmental Consultants, Inc., Columbia, SC (United States; Ryan Structural Engineers, LLC, Mt. Pleasant, SC (United States)
Country of Publication:
United States
17 WIND ENERGY wind turbine test; dynamometer; HALT; Grid Simulator