The growing wind industry in South Carolina
This blog article was co-authored by Simon Mahan and Katie Stokes and is cross-posted from the blog of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
This is the third of five blogs in a series in which the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will be highlighting states throughout our region and their role in the wind industry.
South Carolina’s wind resource is vast; however, no large-scale wind farms have been built onshore or offshore of the Palmetto state. Nearly 5,500 megawatts (MW) of onshore wind resource exists in South Carolina, and another 130,000 MW resides offshore. A single megawatt of wind capacity can generate enough electricity for up to 300 homes. Modern onshore wind turbines are generally 2 MW in capacity, and offshore wind turbines are currently available up to 5 MW.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy published a report on how to achieve 20% of the nation’s electrical supply from onshore and offshore wind power. In that report, the DOE estimated that South Carolina would supply between 1,000 MW to 5,000 MW of onshore and offshore wind energy combined by 2030. Up to 20,000 manufacturing jobs would be created in South Carolina from this scenario. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that for every one megawatt of offshore wind capacity built, more than 20 jobs are created.
Even though no utility-scale wind energy has been developed in South Carolina, the state is generating a lot of interest from the wind industry. In 2009, Santee Cooper, Coastal Carolina University and the South Carolina Energy Office began the Palmetto Wind Research Project to study the state’s offshore wind resource. In 2010, Clemson University broke ground in North Charleston to develop a $98 million advanced drive-train test facility for offshore wind turbines - the largest single investment in the state’s history. The facility will be able to test turbine drive-trains from 5 MW to 15 MW in capacity and is serving as a magnet to attract new manufacturers to set up shop.
Already several companies in South Carolina work in the wind industry, even though the state has no large-scale wind farms installed. The following is a non-exhaustive list of companies located in South Carolina who serve wind industry customers:
ESAB Welding (Florence, SC) provides welding services for wind turbine tower construction. In 2008, the company’s largest order ever came from Vestas Tower A/S, a tower manufacturer. GEDORE Tools (North Charleston, SC) built a distribution center that sells specialty tools for application in the wind industry. The center was drawn to North Charleston, in part, due to the proximity to the Clemson drive-train facility.
General Electric (Greenville, SC) manufactures the company’s “work horse” 1.5 MW wind turbine. Greenville is the headquarters for GE’s energy engineering.
Mankiewicz Coatings (Charleston, SC) opened a new paint and coatings manufacturing facility in mid-2011. The new $2 million facility will manufacture products that serve the wind, aviation and yachting industries.
McCallum Sweeney Consulting (Greenville, SC) provides consultation services to the wind industry to help “companies decide where to build” manufacturers. During the recession, the wind industry was one of the few industries still using consultation services for site selection.
Morgan AM&T (Greenville, SC) manufactures “brushes, slip rings, holders and springs for most generators.” The company’s carbon and graphite products are used by the wind, aerospace, oil and gas, railway and other industries.
Power Equipment Maintenance, Inc. (Piedmont, SC) provides a wide range of services for the operations and maintenance of wind turbines. The company has supplied personnel to replace more than 280 wind turbine generators, mostly while in the air.
Prysmian Power Cables (Lexington, SC) manufactures transmission and distribution cables to the electric power industry, including for cables wind farms.
Tindall Corporation (Spartanburg, SC) plans to manufacture a concrete precast for wind turbine foundations. This type of foundation can significantly increase wind turbine height to reach higher velocity winds - an especially important consideration for low-wind speed areas like the Southeast.
Despite the wind energy industry presence in South Carolina, if the state is going to achieve the Department of Energy’s scenario to develop up to 5 gigawatts worth of wind capacity and generate up to 20,000 in-state manufacturing jobs by 2030, the state will need to recognize renewable energy as a valuable economic engine. South Carolina must develop a renewable portfolio standard and the state’s federal delegates should propose and support stable tax incentives for the wind industry.