Business park's solar farm is small but important step

In 2015, $10 million was invested in solar installations in South Carolina.   File photo

The driving forces behind Berkeley County’s first solar farm believe theirs is a small step, but an important one that could have ripple effects across the state.

The $2.7 million farm, set up in partnership with the utility South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), will help power the Charleston International Manufacturing Center in Bushy Park.

And the center’s management, Cooper River Partners, is planning to have a second up and running later this year. The total capacity of the farm will be just over 1 megawatt.

“The state of South Carolina is just getting going on what I would call complete solar programs,” Marc Fetten, president of Cooper River Partners, told Palmetto Business Daily. “It will be interesting enough to make it work. Many of the tenants do make consumer products that leave a carbon footprint. They use a total of 17 megawatts so this is a small dent in our consumption but it is a start.”

The project is about creating a diverse mix of energy sources, with renewables along with more traditional types, Fetten said.

At the ribbon-cutting, Danny Kassis, vice president of customer relations and renewable energy for SCE&G, said this is the sort of project that can impact the state.

"At the end of the day, cleaner air for Berkeley which is cleaner air for South Carolina," Kassis said, according to a report on News Channel 10.

Berkeley County Supervisor Bill Peagler said the farm will increase the value of the industrial park.

“It produces more revenue for us with the savings that they are going to be having from lowering costs of the electricity," Peagler said. "Maybe they'll invest that in more employees or invest it more in Berkeley County."

South Carolina has committed to developing solar energy, with the stated goal of installing 972 megawatts of capacity over the next five years. But the push only really began in 2015 after the General Assembly approved legislation allowing homeowners for 10 years to sell excess power to utilities for the same price charged to other retail customers.

As of 2015, 65 megawatts were installed in the state, ranking it 28th in the country in installed solar capacity. That is enough solar energy to power 7,100 homes.

There are approximately 56 solar companies in South Carolina, employing 1,764 people.

In 2015, $10 million was invested in solar installations in South Carolina.  That represented a 183 percent increase over the previous year. Over the next five years, South Carolina is expected to install 972 megawatts of solar electric capacity, ranking the state 18th. This investment is more than 81 times the amount of solar equipment installed over the last five years.

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