Wind Turbine Drivetrain Test Center Doubles as Grid Simulator
The construction of the SCE&G Innovation Center, Clemson University's wind turbine drivetrain test facility in North Charleston, S.C., couldn't have proved more challenging, considering the site chosen for the building. As James Tuten with Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI), the project owner, told ENR Southeast: "We had heavy loads on muck in a seismic area with flooding potential and high wind loads due to hurricanes on a brownfield site."
Located within a decommissioned U.S. Navy warehouse atop a rehabilitated brownfield site, the 82,300-sq-ft facility supports the testing of offshore wind turbines by giving manufacturers the opportunity to simulate 20 years of field conditions in just a few months.
With typical turbine blades averaging 300 ft in length, the facility's test cells would have to endure massive, fluctuating vibrations exerted by the dynamic loads imposed by the 7.5-megawatt and 15-megawatt test rigs, which simulate real-life stresses of offshore conditions. Facing the physical weight-load requirements of the dynamic test cells atop extremely poor soils, the team devised a plan to shore up the foundations in order to isolate the test rig foundations from the rest of the building.
Crews excavated two massive pits—measuring 23,700 cu ft and 56,300 cu ft—and installed more than 900 tons of custom-bent rebar supported by 4,480 cu yd of self-consolidating concrete, which was placed via single pours for each rig. In all, workers installed 297 piles—including steel shoring and steel and concrete piles—varying from 35 ft to 85 ft in length for the test rigs. For installation within the 45-ft-tall building, crews drove 85-ft-long piles in 20-ft sections, a process that required more than 1,200 man-hours to weld the sections back together.
The LEED-Gold-certified facility is also home to the Duke Energy eGRID, a 15-megawatt hardware-in-the-loop grid simulator capable of testing and validating the impact of wind energy on the electrical grid.
Best Energy/Industrial Project — Clemson University's SCE&G Energy Innovation Center, North Charleston, S.C.
Contractor Choate Construction Co., Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Owner Clemson University Restoration Institute, North Charleston, S.C.
Lead Designer AEC Engineering, Minneapolis
MEP Engineer Davis & Floyd, North Charleston, S.C.