State investigating investment into wind energy - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

State investigating investment into wind energy

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WIS) -  Engineers at a $100 million wind turbine testing facility in North Charleston hope to increase the confidence of those who manufacture the turbines by testing them before they spend millions installing them in the middle of the ocean.

"South Carolina has the second highest wind potential energy on the east coast," said South Carolina Senator Vincent Sheheen, who represents the 27th District.

"Unless they figure out a way to charge for the wind, it's free," said Clemson University Project Manager Jim Tuten.

Free and ripe with potential.  And it all starts at the one-of-a kind Clemson University wind turbine testing lab.

"The industry needs more certainty in their equipment," said Tuten. "They want to prove the equipment before it goes off shore because its so hard to maintain it off shore."

The facility will soon be able to test the resilience of the world's largest off-shore wind turbines and hopefully spur the industry to new heights.

"We just need to get some demonstration out and see that this technology works and we'll see it take off," said Brian O'Hara of the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition.

And that success could mean a big bump for South Carolina's economy.

"The studies that are most trusted say we could create just over 30,000 jobs if we focus on clean fuel here in South Carolina," said Sheheen.

Plans for an offshore wind farm off the coast of South Carolina are also in development, but moving slowly.

"Things like birds, sea mammals, ocean floor impacts, habitat impacts, there's a lot of consideration you have to make, so you have to put these things in the right place, it's not everywhere and anywhere," said Hamilton Davis with the Coastal Carolina Conservation League.

It's clean energy, with a high start-up cost, but it may ultimately help keep more money in your pocket.

"It must be cheaper for it to ultimately survive," said Tuten.

Now many other states like Oklahoma and Texas are already generating up to 20% of their power through wind energy. South Carolina still is a few years away from that, but industry experts say the state has the potential to be an east coast industry leader.

Copyright 2013 WIS.  All rights reserved.

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