Nick Rigas, a wind power entrepreneur who spearheaded the state’s effort to land a $98 million wind turbine test lab in North Charleston, will be the facility’s director and senior scientist, Clemson University Restoration Institute officials said Wednesday.
“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,” Rigas said in a statement.
Rigas will direct the design, construction and operation of a lab that tests wind turbine drive trains capable of generating 20 megawatts, enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.
In November the U.S. Department of Energy selected the Restoration Institute and its partners to build the lab with $45 million in federal stimulus funds and $53 million from public and private partners in South Carolina.
On Wednesday, the S.C. Budget and Control Board fulfilled its $7 million share of that $53 million local match in a 4-1 vote. The lone dissenter was Gov. Mark Sanford, who said the research should be done by the private sector.
Other state leaders have said the wind lab could fuel the creation of a national wind power hub in the Charleston area, creating thousands of new jobs.
Officials have been touting the former Navy base as a site for a future offshore wind manufacturing plant, and General Electric’s chief executive officer said last month that the company is interested in the site.
Planning and construction of the wind lab is set to begin this year, with a target opening date in late 2012. The lab would go in a large warehouse at the former Navy base.
Rigas is a former vice president of project development for EcoEnergy LLC, where he was responsible for creating more than 3,000 megawatts of wind-power projects in the Midwest and Arizona.
“Nick Rigas is the man everyone goes to when it comes to alternative energy,” said John Kelly, executive director of the Restoration Institute.