Published: January 13, 2010
NORTH CHARLESTON — The Clemson University Restoration Institute has appointed Nick Rigas director and senior scientist of the world’s largest wind turbine drive train testing facility.
In this position Rigas will have overall responsibility for design, construction and operation of what will be the only facility in the world capable of testing wind turbine drive trains in the 5 megawatt to 20 megawatt range with 30 percent overload capacity.
His appointment is effective immediately.
On Nov. 23, the U.S. Department of Energy selected the Restoration Institute and its partners to build the one-of-a-kind testing facility. The energy department awarded the institute a $45 million grant that was matched with $53 million from public and private partners.
The $98 million funding award is the largest ever received by Clemson University.
“There is much work to be done,” Rigas said. “We are at the beginning of a journey that will end with one of the world’s most important sites for wind energy research and development based in South Carolina.
“The Restoration Institute’s dedicated team is second to none,” Rigas said. “From initial planning and design through construction and operation, the North Charleston site will begin testing drive trains for the next generation of wind turbines.”
The university’s partners are: the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority; the S.C. Department of Commerce; the State of South Carolina; S.C. Public Railways; the S.C. State Ports Authority; and private partners RENK AG, Tony Bakker and James Meadows.
Rigas also is director of the Restoration Institute’s renewable energy focus area, where he works to promote development of South Carolina’s indigenous clean energy resources for economic development, energy security, improving the environment and increasing the quality of life for the state’s citizens.
In 2006, he was director of the S.C. Institute for Energy Studies at Clemson. He also was chairman of the S.C. Biomass Council and the S.C. Tactical Research on Energy Independence Council.
Prior to joining Clemson, Rigas was operations and technology director for FMC Corp., Lithium Division, in Charlotte; and as vice president of project development for EcoEnergy LLC, where he was responsible for the development of more than 3,000 megawatts of wind-power projects throughout the Midwest and Arizona.
He holds a doctoral degree in chemical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis.
A drive train takes energy generated by a turbine’s blades and increases the rotational speed to drive the electrical generator, similar to the transmission in a car. The testing facility will be housed in Building 69, an 82,264-square-foot vacant warehouse on the former Charleston Naval Base.
The building was built in 1942, modified in 1985 and decommissioned in 1995. It was the main warehouse for the Navy’s storage of non-hazardous materials.
Planning and construction of the facility is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2010 with a targeted operational date in the third quarter of 2012.
John Kelly, executive director of the Clemson University Restoration Institute and vice president for public service and agriculture, said the testing facility could not be in better hands.
“Dr. Rigas is a nationally known expert in renewable energy and his expertise will prove invaluable,” Kelly said.
“Nick Rigas is the man everyone goes to when it comes to alternative energy,” he said. “Our drive train testing facility will be state-of-the-art and will place South Carolina and Clemson University on the map for wind power research and development.”