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Fall 2016

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The Horry Landfill Generating Station is located off S.C. Highway 90 near Conway.

Celebrating 15 Years of Green Power
at Santee Cooper

On Sept. 4, 2001, Santee Cooper’s Horry Landfill Generating Station entered operation, the first renewable energy in the Palmetto State to be put on a commercial electric grid.

Thus began the pioneering story of Green Power in South Carolina.

This generating station, with the capability of producing up to 3 megawatts (MW) of power, consumes methane gas derived from the landfill’s decaying refuse for fuel.

From this beginning 15 years ago, Santee Cooper has advanced Green Power throughout South Carolina to include electricity generated by the wind and the sun.

“We continue to lead the state when it comes to Green Power,” said Stephen Spivey, Santee Cooper’s manager of renewable energy. “No one has made the commitment we have, particularly with the investment we have made in landfill-gas generation. I think that demonstrates the type of forward-thinking utility that Santee Cooper has always been.”

Lee Landfill Generating Station
Lee Landfill Generating Station

It’s hard to argue with the evidence. Today, Santee can point to 29.35 MW of certified Green Power in its 130-MW renewable energy portfolio. This includes: six methane-gas generating stations, three solar arrays, and one wind turbine.

“Green Power is an evolving area for all major generating utilities and Santee Cooper can proudly point to many achievements,” said Marc Tye, Santee Cooper’s executive vice president of competitive markets and generation. “We will continue to embrace the possibilities of renewable energy while also being mindful of its limitations.”

Santee Cooper’s Green Power program maintains national Green-e Energy certification through The Center for Resource Solutions, based in San Francisco, Calif. Green-e Energy certified utility programs are verified annually for their power content, ensuring that the power met Green-e Energy program’s environmental and consumer standards.

“The customer knows without a shadow of a doubt that it is certified Green Power,” Spivey said. “This process has to be signed off on by our internal auditor. The customer can be assured they’re getting what they’re paying for.”

In 2005, Santee Cooper’s largest Green Power site, capable of making up to 11 MW of electricity, was dedicated at the Lee Landfill Generating Station near Bishopville. Its generating capability has grown from 5.4 MW to 11 MWs, which at full load could power up to approximately 5,500 average-sized homes.

Richland Landfill Generating Station
Richland Landfill Generating Station

A year later, Santee Cooper’s Green Power grew to include the Richland Landfill Generating Station near Columbia. The Richland County facility is located within a 124-acre landfill owned by Waste Management Inc., one of the largest firms of its type in the business. Green Power at Santee Cooper has advanced in large part because of partnerships Santee Cooper has forged with landfill companies and counties that also own and operate landfills.

Zane Ferris, Waste Management’s district manager, said at the time the station was dedicated, “Our landfill provides a clean and affordable source of alternative energy. Waste Management is proud to operate a facility that will actively help produce green energy and contribute to the health of the environment.”

The next Green Power chapter made history in July 2006 when solar energy was placed on the commercial grid for the first time in the state. Coastal Carolina University Green Power Solar Pavilions, bus stop shelters featuring solar panels on their roofs, are in a very public place, a busy thoroughfare on a college campus. They’re capable of producing 16 kilowatts (kW), which is not on a scale of landfill-gas stations, but can power about 75 computers.

Santee Cooper President and CEO Lonnie Carter spoke at the facility’s October 2006 dedication, calling it “a historic day for South Carolina.”

Said Carter, “There are many ‘firsts’ here today: The state’s first solar Green Power site, the first solar photovoltaic project at a public university in the state and the first project funded by Green Power participants.”

Anderson Regional Landfill Generating Station
Anderson Regional Landfill Generating Station

Making power from methane gas at land-fills is fairly straightforward. The gas powers an engine that turns a generator. At CCU, sunlight is absorbed by four solar arrays. Energy from the solar panels is converted from direct current to alternating current, power that’s found in our homes and businesses.

The output is maximized at the spring and fall equinox, due to the tilt of the angle of the modules. Output is also affected by the temperature of the equipment, weather, humidity, haze and length of day.

Generating Green Power created an opportunity for Santee Cooper to make this renewable energy available to its customers. Sold in 100-kilowatt-hour blocks for $3 a block, all the money collected by Green Power sales goes back into Green Power projects.

The Coastal Carolina solar panels are a great example. The project’s cost was totally funded by customers who voluntarily purchased Santee Cooper’s Green Power.

In fact, Santee Cooper is one of only a few utilities in the country that reinvests 100 percent of its Green Power revenue into additional renewable resources.

Georgetown Landfill Generating Station
Georgetown Landfill Generating Station

But perhaps the greatest aspect of this solar project is that at its core, it is an educational tool. What better place for this education to occur than at a university?

But Santee Cooper was not finished with developing landfill-gas generation. In September 2008, the Anderson Regional Landfill Generating Station, a 3-MW plant near Belton, entered service.

At the facility’s dedication, it was pointed out that according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency every 1 MW of power produced at a landfill-gas facility is equal to removing almost 8,000 cars from area roads or planting more than 10,000 acres of trees.

This was Santee Cooper’s second venture with Allied Waste Inc., owner and operator of the landfill in Lee County. In June 2008, Allied Waste merged into Republic Services, which owns and manages the facility today.

Solar energy was still on the front burner at Santee Cooper and again an institution of higher learning was the beneficiary. In February 2010, the Technical College of the Lowcountry Solar Canopies and its 20 kW went online.

The project included a series of nine canopies, each covered with 10 solar panels and sheltering a bench.

North Myrtle Beach Wind Turbine
North Myrtle Beach Wind Turbine

With only three exceptions, Santee Cooper power lines are not in close proximity to the Green Power facilities. Electric cooperatives have made it possible for the power to be placed on the grid.

Santee Cooper is the primary source of power for the state’s 20 electric co-ops, and Palmetto Electric Cooperative meters and supplies to the grid the energy from the TCL solar array.

Palmetto Electric was the first co-op to promote Santee Cooper’s Green Power to its customer, and Palmetto today has one of the largest groups of customers supporting the state’s original renewable energy program.

Landfill gas installations marched on. In March 2010, the 1-MW Georgetown Landfill Generating Station hit the grid. Then, eight months later, the power of the wind on the Grand Strand was applied when the 2-kW North Myrtle Beach Wind Turbine became operational.

This too was a milestone in the history of renewable energy in the state as South Carolina’s first utility-owned wind turbine.

Berkeley Landfill Generating Station
Berkeley Landfill Generating Station

Santee Cooper’s newest landfill-gas installation, the 3-MW Berkeley Landfill Generating Station located near Moncks Corner and a few miles from Santee Cooper’s corporate headquarters, entered commercial operation in February 2011. It is the only facility of its type in the Lowcountry.

The final chapter to date in the history of Santee Cooper Green Power occurred in April 2011 in Myrtle Beach, with the Grand Strand Solar Station bringing 311 kW.

It features 1,325 solar panels mounted on rooftops and at an adjacent field at Santee Cooper’s warehouse facilities on Mr. Joe White Avenue. Santee Cooper partnered with the S.C. Energy Office on the project.

That is Santee Cooper’s Green Power story so far. Last year alone, 21,352 megawatt-hours of this renewable energy was sold to:

    > 1,215 residential customers
    > 356 commercial customers
    > One industrial customer
    > 3,095 customers reached through co-ops and municipalities
    > 40 Green Tag customers (representing investor-owned utilities in S.C.)

Spivey says Green Power appeals to customers who have a desire to improve the environment and Santee Cooper’s renewable energy portfolio will likely get larger as the years unfold.