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Wind power research project announced

May 22, 2007

By Santee Cooper

Coastal Carolina University, Clemson University and state-owned utility Santee Cooper are partnering to establish a wind-power project on an undeveloped Horry County barrier island.

The project will investigate the feasibility of harnessing Mother Nature to generate commercially viable electricity. By July, the South Carolina Institute for Energy Studies at Clemson University will install three wind gauges, or anemometers, atop a mobile 160-foot tower on Waties Island. The tower will also have a barometer, temperature gauge and solar sensor. The anemometers will be in installed at different heights for optimum data gathering. All data collected from these instruments will be sent remotely to Clemson computers and be made available through the Internet.

The 1,062-acre portion of Waties Island belonging to Coastal Carolina already provides a natural laboratory for extensive study in marine science and wetlands biology. Located near Little River, Waties Island provides an ideal location to gather coastal wind data for the project's one-year scope.

Clemson will maintain the anemometer facility, conduct wind-data storage and distribution, and develop educational and public outreach programs prior to compiling a final report. Coastal Carolina will assist in the structure's installation, change anemometer batteries as needed and with Santee Cooper will review a final report and recommendations. Santee Cooper has appropriated $10,000 for the anemometer.

"We all are going to take advantage of this opportunity to prove the potential wind-power technology in South Carolina as we seek to advance a viable energy alternative-energy option," said Paul T. Gayes, director of the CCU's Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies.

"Our mission is to promote the use of wind power in South Carolina through public education and acceptance," said Nicholas Rigas, director of Clemson's Institute for Energy Studies. "This project and partnership has exciting possibilities as South Carolina begins to develop its coastal and offshore wind potential as a clean and environmentally friendly alternative energy. Understanding the viability of these winds and developing them in a safe and sustainable manner is important to our coastal communities. I applaud Santee Cooper for participating in this exciting study."

Rigas said there is research potential for:

* Advanced materials for blades and support

* Preventive maintenance modeling

* Advanced low wind-speed blade design

* Manufacturing and construction technologies * Hydrogen production and storage

"Santee Cooper is continuously monitoring the horizon for partnerships, funding mechanisms, risk minimization strategies and installation-cost reductions so that development of wind projects can become feasible," said Bill McCall, the utility's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "We are pleased to be partnering with two outstanding universities as we continue seeking more cost-effective and practical alternative energy for South Carolina."