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Power Ahead

Clemson is now home to one of the world’s largest and most capable electrical grid simulators. Thanks to the work of Clemson graduate and eGRID creator Curtiss Fox, one day, renewable energy sources like wind, solar and more will do even more to make things go.

When the lights flicker, we barely notice. Our homes stay warm. Our laptops switch to battery backup. Maybe an old clock radio needs a reset, but otherwise life goes on uninterrupted.

In the world of distributed-energy production, however, even a momentary disruption in power can be a big deal.

Whether it’s something as small as a voltage fluctuation (think: a squirrel in a transformer or a tree falling on a power line) or something as significant as a cyber attack on the power grid, knowing how the next generation of energy will respond to these disruptions matters — a lot.

That’s where Curtiss Fox of the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) comes in. The work he and his team are doing today at the University’s Energy Innovation Center on its grid simulator will forever change the way we power our nation, and even our world.

The Duke Energy eGRID has been under construction at Clemson’s Charleston-based testing facility since the first of this year, shortly after Fox was named director of operations. Assembly wrapped up on the eGRID this spring, and the summer months will be spent essentially turning the equipment on in preparation for the center’s first customer: a private company affiliated with the energy industry. Although the proverbial switch has yet to be flipped, the eGRID project has been four years in the making, with Fox at the helm since the very beginning — first as a Ph.D. student and now as director of operations. It’s no wonder the prospect of making the simulator come to life, likely sometime this fall, is so thrilling for Fox.

“This,” he offers enthusiastically, “is when you really start making the equipment perform.”

J. Curtiss Fox receiving his doctoral (2013) degree in electrical engineering from Clemson.

J. Curtiss Fox receiving his doctoral (2013) degree in electrical engineering from Clemson.

FOX RECEIVED HIS PH.D. IN ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING in December 2013, but his work on the eGRID project dates back to May 2010. At that time, the Department of Energy had just awarded a grant to the drivetrain facility so that it could conduct mechanical testing of wind turbines by constructing two wind turbine dynamometers: one 7.5 megawatts, one 15 megawatts.

The Department of Energy grant had a specific purpose: to allow Clemson to perform Highly Accelerated Life Tests on wind turbines — in layman’s terms, the tests are designed to simulate extreme events, those outside the turbine’s normal operating range, to see how they respond. These tests are important before the turbines are deployed to the field for obvious reasons, namely to prevent equipment failures and avoid expensive replacements on the highly technical equipment.

About the time the grant was awarded, Fox’s longtime Clemson adviser, Randy Collins, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Science and professor of electrical and computer engineering, attended a presentation about the then-proposed wind turbine drivetrain testing facility. Collins spoke with Energy Innovation Center facility director and senior scientist, Nick Rigas, and learned about an electrical diagram of the proposed facility. On that diagram, there was a box. But no one quite knew what type of equipment was going to go into the box.

Collins mentioned to Rigas that he had a grad student who could look into that for him. A few weeks later, Fox drove to Charleston. He met Rigas. He landed the job: grad assistant at CURI. Fox’s main objective was to figure out what kind of electrical equipment went into the box. He also was charged with designing power-flow studies and studying the transient response of the electrical equipment within the facility.

The rest is history, or the future — as the case may be.

THE BOX HAD A NAME, if not a specific function: LVRT equipment. It turns out it was actually an addition to the wind turbine facility’s electrical system. It wasn’t until after the grant was awarded that the Department of Energy came back to Clemson and asked if the University could also look at working an electrical test into what was otherwise mechanical testing of the wind turbine drivetrains.

The answer, thanks to Fox, was “yes.” That box was right in his wheelhouse. Low Voltage Ride-Through, or LVRT, is the ability of electrical equipment to keep working even when there are brief disturbances in the power system — something like lightning strikes, fallen trees or even animals on the power lines. When the lights flicker or short out, it’s because the flow of electricity has been disrupted. Fox had been pursuing a thesis on the subject, and now he had an opportunity to give it real-world application.

So, Fox developed a grid simulator to troubleshoot these kinds of power interruptions and reduce the risks that those in the energy industry worry about as they try to integrate new technologies into the electrical grid.

Since then, Fox’s work to bring this capability to the Energy Innovation Center has introduced a world-class, advanced testing platform capable of modeling grid conditions anywhere in the world.

The grid simulator is a center for innovation, where energy efficiency, energy storage and smart-grid technologies can be developed, tested and certified before they are rolled out for the mass marketplace. All the while, the project has been an opportunity to educate industry about power systems engineering and to show them how it could impact their future workforces.

“THE QUESTION THAT ARISES IS, ‘How do we go about integrating the renewable, distributed, new-generation storage energy equipment into the existing infrastructure, such that you can offset costs associated with upgrading the infrastructure?’” Fox explains of his work at CURI.

Think of it like this: Say you have a power line feeding a neighborhood, and then a developer decides to build again, and the neighborhood doubles in size. “They would either need to install another power line or rebuild it with bigger equipment,” Fox explains.

“But what if they could come in and install energy storage and not have to rebuild that power line?” Fox asks. “They could defer an upgrade, or avoid having to put in a whole new power line, by simply placing newer, more efficient equipment in existing locations.”

That’s exactly the kind of technology Fox’s grid simulator works to troubleshoot, something that is of great interest to utility companies, energy equipment manufacturers and national energy officials, among others. Specifically, the eGRID houses equipment that facilitates testing of the three key renewable energy technologies: energy storage, wind turbine energy and large, utility-scale solar energy.

It is this third and final component of the testing facility, a Photovoltaic (PV) Array Simulator, that is the most recent innovation moving Clemson to the forefront of the alternative energy field. Clemson’s PV Array Simulator — which essentially combines several acres of solar panels designed to capture energy from the sun into a small box — is scheduled to come online this fall, and when it does, it will be the largest such simulator in the world. It will also make Clemson’s grid simulator the only one in the world capable of testing all three of the key renewable-energy technologies.

The $98 million testing facility has been funded by a $45 million Department of Energy grant, and matched with $53 million of public and private funds. The eGRID represents another $12 million on top of that. It’s truly pioneering technology, something officials at the highest levels of government have taken notice of, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman.

“Developing America’s vast renewable energy resources is an important part of the Energy Department’s ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future,” Poneman offers. “The Clemson testing facility represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry — helping to make sure the best, most efficient wind energy technologies are developed and manufactured in the United States.”

J. Curtiss Fox (right) chats with U.S. Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman at the dedication of the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center.

J. Curtiss Fox (right) chats with U.S. Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman at the dedication of the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center.

LAST YEAR FOX AND HIS COLLEAGUES FILED A U.S. PATENT on the grid simulator while he also successfully defended his dissertation on Low Voltage Ride-Through technology. The grid simulator project is now a separate, Department of Energy-sponsored project supported in large measure by corporate partners including Duke Energy and SCANA.

“The energy industry is a growing and changing industry,” offers Kevin Marsh, chairman and chief executive officer of SCANA Corporation, the parent company of SCE&G, a key partner in the project. “It is important for the private sector to work with public partners such as the U.S. Department of Energy and Clemson University to address the opportunities and challenges that face our industry.”

It’s Fox’s past collaboration that bodes so well for the future of the electrical grid.

“As a student, I was allowed to collaborate directly with industry,” Fox says in retrospect. “These projects are only a steppingstone for the research and innovation that will be needed for the grid of the future. I hope to continue to contribute to those efforts.”

SCETV: World’s Most Advanced Energy Testing Facility Opens in South Carolina

Clemson University’s Drive Train Testing Facility: Economic Impact

Clemson and SCE&G partner on one-of-a-kind energy systems research & testing facility

In These Hills

FIVE FACULTY AWARDED NSF EARLY CAREER GRANTS

Fadi Abu-Farha

Fadi Abu-Farha

It’s the most sought-after recognition an emerging science, engineering or mathematics faculty member can receive: a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant. And this year, Clemson faculty claimed five.

A CAREER grant is the NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early career development activities, providing a financial stipend to support research activity for five years. The NSF, an independent federal agency, supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

As any professor who has applied for a CAREER grant can attest, a submission for this award is much more than a research proposal: It’s a career development plan. The goal is to fund faculty members early in their careers to promote their development into teacher-scholars. The scientists and researchers who receive the awards are widely considered the most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. Since 2005, Clemson has been home to more than 30 CAREER grant recipients.

The CAREER grants awarded at Clemson this spring represent a broad spectrum of interests and applications — from harnessing the power of giant computer systems to innovative medical advances to developing lighter-weight materials for modern
car construction.

Fadi Abu-Farha (pictured)
Associate Professor of Automotive Engineering
Amount: $400,000
Low-cost manufacturing of lightweight sheet components for the automotive sector

Jeffrey N. Anker
Assistant Professor of Analytical Chemistry
Amount: $526,000
High-resolution spectrochemical imaging through tissue
Delphine Dean
Associate Professor of Bioengineering
Amount: $400,000
Hierarchical mechanical models of cell constructs

Haiying (Helen) Shen
Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Amount: $400,000
Large-scale distributed data-sharing system

Melissa Smith
Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Amount: $450,000
Harnessing hybrid computing resources in PetaScale computing and beyond

LIBRARY DIGITIZES TAPS

TAPS yearbook cover 1943.

TAPS yearbook cover 1943.

Whether you’re digging for family history or just browsing for fun, thumbing through decades-old Clemson yearbooks is an intriguing experience. And now that experience is accessible to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

Clemson’s Special Collections Library has digitized the complete run, from the first volume (Clemson College Chronicle) in 1899 through 2012. The yearbook had several names before finally becoming Taps in 1908.

Clemson's Special Collections Library has digitized TAPS.

Clemson’s Special Collections Library has digitized TAPS.

Through a partnership with the Internet Archive, the yearbooks were scanned cover-to-cover in full color. Online visitors can page through a volume, download a PDF, view it on a Kindle or search the full text.

This project was made possible through the LYRASIS Digitization Collaborative — a Sloan Foundation grant-subsidized program that has made digitization easy and affordable for libraries and cultural institutions across the country.

Also available digitally are the Clemson Catalog (undergraduate announcements) and the Clemson Chronicle (the student literary/arts/photography journal). In the coming months additional publications will be made available: Clemson College Newsletter (faculty/staff), The Agrarian (School of Agriculture student publication), and Bobbin & Beaker (official journal of the Textile School).

When all these publications have been digitized, more than 100,000 pages of full-color, text-searchable Clemson-related materials will be available for researchers worldwide.

To view the yearbooks, visit http://library.clemson.edu/depts/specialcollections/clemson-yearbooks/.

RICHARDSON NAMED TO CLEMSON BOARD

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson

Charlotte business leader Mark Richardson ’83 is the newest member of the University’s board of trustees. Manager and owner of MAR Real Estate LLC, a commercial real estate company, Richardson is co-owner of the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon and more than 50 Bojangles’ restaurants in North Carolina and Virginia. He played on Clemson’s 1981 national championship football team.

“Mark brings to the board keen business and marketing insights, a commitment to excellence and a passion for Clemson University,” said Board Chair David Wilkins.

Richardson succeeds the late Bill L. Amick of Batesburg, who retired after serving for 30 years. Amick, a 1966 Clemson graduate, was chief executive officer of the Amick Company and a real estate developer. He served as chair of Clemson’s board from 1991 to 1995 and was awarded Clemson’s Distinguished Service Award.

EXPLORING THE BIODIVERSITY OF THE ROAN HIGHLANDS

Big Yellow Mountain in the Roan Highlands.

Big Yellow Mountain in the Roan Highlands.

Students from Patrick McMillan’s plant taxonomy class explored some of the most ecologically diverse areas in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, thanks to alumnus Witt Langstaff. Langstaff has property on Big Yellow Mountain, located in the Roan Highlands along the North Carolina/Tennessee state line, and hosts McMillan’s class each fall. One of the highest elevation areas in the Eastern U.S., the Roan Highlands has plant communities and climate typical of New England and Canada and is the location of one of the most picturesque and unique natural communities, the grassy bald.

CLEMSON OPENS DOORS IN VILLAGE OF WEST GREENVILLE

Clemson's Center for Visual Arts opens at West Greenville

Clemson’s Center for Visual Arts opens at West Greenville

Clemson’s Center for Visual Arts opens at West Greenville [/caption]Once the heart of the local textile industry, West Greenville has reinvented itself as an art destination. The Village of West Greenville is home to more than 30 artisans — including potters, sculptors, photographers and painters — as well as local businesses and restaurants. And now Clemson’s Center for Visual Arts has opened its doors there as well.

The Center for Visual Arts serves as the umbrella for all visual art activities at the University. The location on Pendleton Street will allow for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and alumni to have hands-on experiences in developing, curating, installing and exhibiting art. The center will engage local, regional, national and international artists and will give Upstate residents an opportunity to both see and “do” art.

Greg Shelnutt, chair of the art department, sees the center as a mutually beneficial partnership for Clemson and Greenville. “This is a chance to become a part of the fabric of the community. Artists want to give back; we want to share what we do. Artists want to expand upon the cultural heritage of a community, using art to tell the stories of life in that community,” he says. “We get so much out of our interaction with the public, and this will give our students a chance to jumpstart their art careers.”

STUDENTS UNVEIL COMPLETED DEEP ORANGE 3 VEHICLE

Deep Orange 3 Vehicle

Deep Orange 3 Vehicle

Students in Clemson’s graduate automotive engineering program displayed a new concept vehicle at the 2013 L.A. Auto Show in November. Deep Orange 3 features a unique hybrid powertrain that automatically chooses front-, rear- or all-wheel drive; a load-bearing structure based on innovative sheet-folding technology patented by Industrial Origami; and groundbreaking 3+3 seating configuration in sports-car architecture.

Clemson’s graduate automotive engineering students are required to create and manufacture a new vehicle prototype. The vehicle’s concept and design are developed in partnership with students from the transportation design department at the Arts Center College of Design (Calif.) focusing holistically on the vehicle and the end-user. Each year, a prototype vehicle is developed with a new market focus and technical objectives, providing students an opportunity to work directly with automotive industry partners to innovate and develop ideas.

STUDENT RESEARCH TAKES AIM AT CONCUSSIONS

Assistant professor of bioengineering David Kwartowitz works with a student Creative Inquiry team conducting research to prevent sports concussions.

Assistant professor of bioengineering David Kwartowitz works with a student Creative Inquiry team conducting research to prevent sports concussions.

Hardly a week goes by without a news story about the effects of concussions on athletes from pee-wee to professional. And Clemson researchers and students are tackling the issue.

An undergraduate Creative Inquiry student research team, working with bioengineering professors David Kwartowitz, John DesJardins and Delphine Dean, has designed a dummy equipped with brain sensors that provide concussion data. The students built a track system to strike the head of the dummy with numerous objects, including weights, footballs, baseballs and helmets. Using this system, the researchers can manipulate the impact of these objects and the sensors provide instant concussion results.

“We control impact and collect concussion data while the dummy is donning an NCAA-approved football or baseball helmet,” says Kwartowitz.

And in that process, students are trying to find solutions. “We’ve begun a competition for the students to design their own padding inside the shell of a football helmet to avoid probable concussions at high impact,” Kwartowitz says. “Ultimately, the data collected will offer insight as how to better protect an athlete from concussion.”

While the project is educational for the Creative Inquiry student team, it’s designed to be educational for elementary, middle and high school students as well on the severity of concussions and the benefits of wearing protective equipment. The dummy simulator eventually will be displayed in Greenville at the Roper Mountain Science Center’s newly renovated health research facility, where 120,000 students visit annually.

SELF FAMILY FOUNDATION CREATES ENDOWED CHAIR IN GENETICS

One of South Carolina’s longest established private foundations has underscored its commitment to medical science by funding an endowed chair in genetics research at the Clemson University Center for Human Genetics. The Self Family Endowed Chair in Human Genetics will advance the development of novel therapeutics treating genetic disorders at the cell level. The $4 million chair is jointly funded by the Self Family Foundation and the state of South Carolina.

The researcher, to be selected, will be a leading geneticist who will work toward treatment, and preventive, diagnostic and curative tools with life-changing and economic potential.

The endowed chair will allow Clemson to build on the Greenwood Genetic Center’s potential for seamless technology transfer through opportunities for industry partners to locate in the adjoining Greenwood Research Park to support local business and economies.

According to Frank Wideman, president of the Self Family Foundation, the foundation made this commitment to honor the late Jim Self who understood early on the enormous potential of research to treat and cure genetic disorders. It was his vision to transform Greenwood from a traditional textile town to a modern center for the life sciences. Self was a longtime chair of the Self Family Foundation, a life trustee of the University and a founding investor in the Greenwood Genetic Center.

Clemson wildlife biology students made a strong showing at the 2013 Wildlife Society Annual Conference in Milwaukee, including first place in the student research in progress poster category and second place for the best doctoral research poster presentation. Senior wildlife and fisheries biology major Jenna Kohles won first prize in flora photography for this photograph of a sourwood leaf floating on a pond in her hometown of Cary, N.C.

Clemson wildlife biology students made a strong showing at the 2013 Wildlife Society Annual Conference in Milwaukee, including first place in the student research in progress poster category and second place for the best doctoral research poster presentation. Senior wildlife and fisheries biology major Jenna Kohles won first prize in flora photography for this photograph of a sourwood leaf floating on a pond in her hometown of Cary, N.C.

SERIES BRINGS SCHOLARS TO CAMPUS ON FOOTBALL WEEKENDS

Georgia Tech professor Nihad Farooq (left) and Clemson professor Kimberly Manganelli confer before the final Road Scholar Series lecture.

Georgia Tech professor Nihad Farooq (left) and Clemson professor Kimberly Manganelli confer before the final Road Scholar Series lecture.

Georgia Tech professor Nihad Farooq (left) and Clemson professor Kimberly Manganelli confer before the final Road Scholar Series lecture.[/caption]The fifth and final Clemson Humanities Road Scholar Series lecture, “Slavery and Social Networks in the New World,” took place Friday, November 15, in connection with the Georgia Tech vs. Clemson football game the night before. The series paired the Tigers’ associate professor of English Kimberly Manganelli (above, right) with Yellow Jackets’ assistant professor of American studies Nihad M. Farooq in a lively discussion of slavery and race.

Jonathan Beecher Field, associate professor of English at Clemson, organized the series which brought humanities professors from visiting football opponents to Clemson throughout the fall to present their current research, each followed by a response from a Clemson professor. Faculty from the University of Georgia, Wake Forest University, Boston College, Florida State University and Georgia Tech accepted Clemson’s invitation to visit and engage with Clemson faculty and students.

“We want to find a way to engage with our athletic rivals academically,” said Field, “and we want to show people what’s important to us at Clemson. This series offers us a way to bring some of the energy surrounding athletics to the academic side of campus and raise the profile of the humanities at Clemson.”

The series received support from across campus, including the Humanities Advancement Board, the Pearce Center for Professional Communication, the Department of Athletics, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, the Class of ’56 Academic Success Center, the Office of the President and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

In her lecture, Farooq explored how contemporary communication networks might provide ways to re-think the diffuse global networks of slaves in the New World archipelago. She compared slave networks of earlier periods to virtual networks of today, calling them “traceable only through the flow of information.”

In her response, Manganelli explored the networks of slavery, both global and local, and together the scholars engaged their audience in a brief Q&A period.

CLEMSON OPENS ENERGY SYSTEMS TESTING AND RESEARCH CENTER

SCE&G Energy Innovation Center at CURI.

SCE&G Energy Innovation Center at CURI.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman spoke at the November dedication of the world’s most advanced energy systems testing and research center, located at the old Charleston Naval Base. “Developing America’s vast renewable energy resources is an important part of the Energy Department’s ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future,” he said.

“The Clemson testing facility represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry — helping to make sure the best, most efficient wind energy technologies are developed and manufactured in the United States.”

The SCE&G Energy Innovation Center, which is part of Clemson’s Restoration Institute, houses a four-story, 400-ton unit capable of testing drivetrains for wind turbines that can produce up to 15 megawatts, which is enough energy to power 6,000 homes. There are only two other such facilities in the world, but neither has this large of a capability.

In addition to drivetrain testing, the facility also includes the Duke Energy eGRID, which can simulate the electrical grid of any country in the world, allowing companies to see how solar, wind and storage devices might interact with the grid.

STUDENT-RUN LITERARY FESTIVAL TO FEATURE U.S. POET LAUREATE

U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

Pulitzer Prize-winner and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, along with a dozen other authors from around the country, will be on campus this spring for the seventh annual Literary Festival.

The festival, one of the few in the country planned and run by students, will include a Young Writer’s Workshop on Friday and Family Day on Saturday. The Young Writers Workshop is a half-day event for area high school creative writers. Upstate teachers bring selected students to campus for a day of readings and workshops with authors including Kelly Link (Pretty Monsters), Benjamin Percy (Red Moon) and poet Mathias Svalina. The Humanities Advancement Board is funding an expansion of the workshop this year, and the organizers are expecting approximately 70 students to attend.

At the heart of this event is a Creative Inquiry class, taught this year by professor Keith Morris. His class of 11 undergraduates and one graduate student are divided into four groups that handle communications, design, planning and organization. Each student serves as a liaison for one of the authors, handling correspondence, introducing the author at the festival and then writing a critical essay on the author’s work.

Many of the students, according to Morris, have used their experience on the festival as a way to secure jobs and internships. For a schedule and more information about this year’s festival, go to clemson.edu/litfest.