NORTH CHARLESTON — With enough concrete to fill the trunks of more than 1,000 Chevy Impalas, construction of Clemson University’s Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility reaches a milestone Thursday when the foundation for the smaller test rig is poured. 

Beginning late Thursday, engineers with Choate Construction will pour 750 cubic yards of concrete into a channel 25 feet wide by 86 feet long by 10 feet deep, all resting on 75 steel piles, to form the 7.5-megawatt test rig foundation.

That’s enough concrete to cover a road about 1.5 miles long or fill about 1.2 million pint glasses. Nearly 100 trucks will carry enough concrete to fill about one-third the cargo space of a Boeing 747 freight jetliner.

The massive pour will last through the night to take advantage of generally calmer weather conditions and minimize traffic congestion. The operation is expected to finish by about 7 a.m. Friday. 

Click here to view a streaming webcam of the testing facility construction site.

Meticulous planning and preparation are the keys to any successful pour of this magnitude, said Matt Hartig, senior project manager at Choate Construction. It has taken several months and thousands of man-hours of preparation and field work to ready for this last step.

“You only get one shot to get such a massive pour right,” Hartig said. “We have to consider environmental conditions, influence from local traffic and any other outside factors that could cause an inconsistent flow of concrete.”

The final stages of preparation involve the logistics for the pour, which includes contingency plans to mitigate possible interruptions to the continuous placement of the concrete, Hartig said.

The pour marks a milestone for the massive construction project. After breaking ground in October 2010, construction began the following year. The project involves completely redeveloping an 82,000-square-foot warehouse on the former Navy base. Engineering design was performed by AEC Engineering in Minneapolis.

In November 2009, Clemson and its partners were awarded a $45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which was combined with $53 million of matching funds, to build and operate the large-scale testing facility for next-generation wind turbine drivetrains. 

When complete at the beginning of next year, the facility at the Clemson University Restoration Institute will have the capability for full-scale highly accelerated testing of advanced drivetrain systems for wind turbines in the 5-megawatt to 15-megawatt range. 

It also will have 50 hertz and 60 hertz testing capability, which means it can accommodate test specimens destined for anywhere in the world.

Jim Tuten, Clemson project manager for the testing facility, said such a major construction event emphasizes the strong working relationship necessary from everyone involved in the project to properly plan and execute the pour.

Design of the facility had to take into account poor soil conditions, seismic considerations, hurricane resistance and many other factors that come with the design and construction of a one-of-a-kind facility.

“The mere scale of this project means we’re breaking new ground on a regular basis,” Tuten said. “We keep the lines of communication flowing freely, and as such we expect the concrete Thursday night and early Friday morning to flow just as freely.”

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