China-based Ming Yang Wind Power will officially open a research and development center at N.C. State University today — a step toward the potential construction of wind farms in North Carolina.
The move is expected to build on existing efforts to bring wind power to the state. Several initiatives have demonstrated the feasibility of building turbines, but private energy firms have yet to pursue development.
“It’s a very exciting development because China is moving very fast in the field of renewable energy,” said Terri Lomax, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies at NCSU.
“To have them come here and develop technologies together will be great because we’re a state that doesn’t have a lot of energy resources on our own.”
Ming Yang’s center will be housed on NCSU’s Centennial Campus, a research park affiliated with the university. It will hire five employees and hopes to collaborate with students and faculty at NCSU, said Gene Pinder, spokesman for the Centennial Campus.
He said the company will focus solely on research at its new branch.
But its move to North Carolina is a sign that wind power could be a future source of energy for the state, said Harvey Seim, a marine sciences professor at UNC-CH.
“There’s some reasonable chance that within the next five to 10 years there will be offshore wind farms deployed.”
Seim led a 2009 study that reported on the feasibility of building wind turbines on North Carolina’s coast. The study recommended that the N.C. General Assembly pursue the development of coastal wind power.
Since then, NCSU researchers have continued to study the potential for wind energy in North Carolina, and the N.C. Department of Commerce has worked with the federal government to make offshore lands available for renewable energy leasing.
“They’ve been trying to foster the interest of the private developers in the state,” Seim said.
In 2010, Duke Energy and UNC collaborated in developing a plan to build wind turbines on North Carolina’s coast, but the project was canceled due to high capital costs, he said.
Lomax said Ming Yang’s move and NCSU’s resources might provide the support necessary to revitalize that idea.
Centennial Campus was designed to facilitate connections between businesses and NCSU, Pinder said.
“[Ming Yang] chose Centennial Campus for the same reason that a lot of companies choose Centennial Campus, and that is to have close proximity to researchers in the field,” he said.
In addition to working with engineering faculty, Ming Yang hopes to collaborate with the North Carolina Solar Center and the FREEDM Systems Center, a renewable energy research group, both located at NCSU, he said.
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