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Showing posts by author Elizabeth Kress  Show all posts >

Santee Cooper’s Utility-Scale Solar Projects Moving Forward


May 09, 2018   By Elizabeth Kress in Energy Matters

Bell Bay Solar’s 2 megawatt array is Santee Cooper’s latest investment in renewable energy.

The Colleton Solar Farm near Walterboro is in its fifth year of production, supplying enough solar for about 300 average households in South Carolina.

In addition to supplying electricity, this project supplied information and data that was used by industry and collegiate groups to develop an understanding of how solar acts in conjunction with power supply and power needs. The project included both fixed panels and single-axis tracking panels, so that data and comparisons were available for both.

On March 1 of this year, another utility-scale project called Bell Bay Solar was completed. It’s located in Horry County, at 6950 U.S. Highway 701 South near Conway. This 2-megawatt, direct-current project was oriented to face southwest. This orientation change shifts the solar generation to peak a little later in the afternoon, so that the tourist-induced summertime electric loads served by Santee Cooper along the nearby Grand Strand are met more... Continue Reading >>

South Carolina Well-Positioned to Benefit From Emerging Offshore Wind Industry in U.S.


February 28, 2018   By Elizabeth Kress in Green Energy

Offshore windmills like this one may become more prevalent in the Southeast’s energy mix.

This year is off to a stellar start for the U.S. Offshore Wind (OSW) industry. Many East Coast states (New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland and Virginia) have seen accelerated efforts to develop both offshore wind farms and transmission cabling back to shore.

Worldwide, Denmark decided as early as 1991 that it could develop an OSW industry. Necessity is the mother of invention. Denmark (as well as other European nations with lots of coastline relative to their interior area) set out to find alternatives for power production.

Santee Cooper was an early state leader to study carbon-free and lower carbon generating technologies. This was a critical time in the development of various industries that have become “clean power.”

Some  carbon-abating projects have succeeded and some have not. The push for lower carbon options for power generation has outlasted many political shifts at state, federal and... Continue Reading >>

Solar power update in South Carolina


February 07, 2018   By Elizabeth Kress in Energy Matters

Solar energy has a bright future in South Carolina as more megawatts are installed in the Palmetto State.

Members of the South Carolina Solar Council meet regularly to share information about the solar industry in the Palmetto State.

Issues and challenges are discussed, and actions taken to address them. Some of the presentations from the meeting are available on their blog page . For example, the South Carolina Energy Office (SCEO) developed information and a website to help consumers with solar information. This website gives helpful information about solar, as well as a place to take a consumer complaint if needed.

The SCEO tracks the status of solar installations as part of its work for the federal Department of Energy. They reported a total of 176 megawatts (MW) of installed solar in the state as of July 31, 2017. For comparison, 176 MW is larger than any of the coal units recently retired at Grainger or Jefferies stations, or a little more power than a simple-cycle natural gas turbine at Rainey Generating Station, except that solar only puts out power... Continue Reading >>

Another Advent: An Optimistic View of Our Energy Future


December 20, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in Energy Matters

The Colleton Solar Farm near Walterboro is part of Santee Cooper’s power-source diversity.

Energy policy, as with most aspects of government policy, swings like a pendulum between the extremes.

When science and commerce compete for a voice, many times the money of commerce speaks louder than the individuals who understand the science. Fortunately, even at a time when it may seem we are moving in the wrong direction, there is progress that takes us to new possibilities.

We are at the beginning of some exciting changes in energy use. These are new energy transformations in all senses of the word: energy from the sun and the wind transformed into electricity, and again transformed into stored energy. These new capabilities to store energy will help reduce inefficiencies in how our energy is made, moved and used.

We pay a huge price for being inefficient with our energy. To give you an idea of the extent of the energy wasted, Lawrence Livermore Labs produced a summary chart showing a balance of how all the U.S. Energy was produced,... Continue Reading >>

The Green Power story continues


November 01, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in Green Energy

Santee Cooper’s Horry Landfill Generating Station is located near Conway at the county’s landfill and was Santee Cooper’s first landfill gas facility, opening in 2001.

Santee Cooper’s Green Power story began when Horry County officials approached Santee Cooper about using its landfill gas to produce electricity.

The technology to do this involves using wells with perforated pipe to draw the gas out of the landfill and onto an engine or turbine which generates electricity. It took more than five years to work out an arrangement to develop the first landfill site, which became operational in September 2001.

At the same time, the public’s interest in renewable energy sources surged. In 2001, Santee Cooper certified the process by which landfill gas produced electricity to the exacting standards of Green-e Energy, and began to offer Green Power for sale to customers who want a greener or reduced-carbon option for their electricity. Santee Cooper pledged to use the proceeds of these sales to build more renewable generation.

Since that time, five more landfills have been developed into electricity... Continue Reading >>

The forecast is sunny, with lower costs already here


October 04, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in Green Energy

The cost of solar panels continues to decline.

The solar photovoltaics (PV) industry has seen cost reductions and other milestones much faster than expected.

The U.S. Department of Energy developed its SunShot program to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption. For utility-scale solar, the 2020 goal of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) was recently reached three years early.

This LCOE does not include any federal, state or local incentives. The average levelized price of purchased-power agreements signed in 2016 was approximately $35 per megawatt-hour, although there is some chance that module pricing and other issues could keep a portion of those projects from being built.

Nationally, there are 47 gigawatts (GW) of solar installed in the U.S.  In South Carolina at the end of 2016, 25 megawatts (MW) were installed, which includes 12 MW of residential, 10 MW of utility-scale and 3 MW of other solar. Looking around at our neighboring... Continue Reading >>

The unseen volunteer


August 16, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in Community
Did you ever make the statement, “I just want to make the world a better place?”

An aspiring young graduate of high school or college might state an admirable goal like this. The dream can get lost over the years, as we work to support a family, or advance in our jobs or strive to be recognized for our talents.

Here is a trick to fulfill that youthful goal in a quiet, low-cost way that I guarantee will bring you joy and enthusiasm. It is an easily accomplished subset of volunteering. It is my secret way to boost my mood, and takes very little effort.

Santee Cooper encourages volunteering in the community and this year has identified it as a goal for all employees. As a state-owned corporation with a mission statement “…to be the state’s leading resource for improving the quality of life for the people of South Carolina,” encouraging employees to volunteer makes good sense.

A lot of people... Continue Reading >>

Practical considerations of recycling


June 14, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in Environmental Stewardship
Berkeley County government has recently formed a group called “Keep Berkeley Beautiful.”

This group works to reduce litter, beautify the county, and increase recycling. I joined the group and our motto is “Fight Ugly with Us.” Click here to see their Facebook page. Education on how recycling really works is an important step to increasing recycling. Some places even have a “master recycler” program to train people to recycle in a smarter way.

Let’s start at the beginning with a few of the items that are commonly able to be recycled, and then we’ll discuss the current situation locally.

Plastic containers of types 1 to 7 are numbered that way to help with recycling Paper, including newspaper and mixed office paper, including paperboard. Cardboard- in recycling, this category is for the special strong cardboard that is used in corrugated boxes and packaging. Textiles and clothing – check... Continue Reading >>

Transportation in the 21st century can be electrifying!


April 19, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in

The electrically powered Proterra bus is manufactured in Greenville, S.C. and also at facilities in California.

Decarbonization strategies bring good news for electric utilities:  a need to electrify everything!

In order to minimize the cost of reducing carbon to each world citizen, perhaps the time has come to seriously consider electrifying   transportation, heating and industry as much as practically possible. 

For years, I thought electric vehicles only shifted pollution from the city to an electric generating station somewhere. Not true! With electric vehicles and renewables in combination, I drive carbon-free.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, recent changes in the electric utility sector have reduced carbon output by 5 percent for two years in a row. Also, the years 2015 and 2016 both saw 5 percent reductions in carbon from electric utilities. There are three trends which have made this possible:

Increased renewables Energy efficiency Natural gas... Continue Reading >>

Recycling rumors


March 08, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in Environmental Stewardship

Recycling is always a good idea for the environment and most times, your pocketbook too.

There is so much misinformation about recycling that it’s hard to know where to begin to educate folks.

Plastic, aluminum, glass, textiles, wood waste and organics each have their own story for processing and value. The scrap value can swing wildly as the markets change.

Santee Cooper has used wood waste, landfill gas and organics to produce electricity, so here’s hoping you’ll be interested in a blog on recycling of other materials and the circular economy as a whole.

In this blog, we explore the recycling of clothing, using local Goodwill as our specific and local example . I recently heard someone say, “You know, Goodwill throws out clothes they get that are out of season.” I tracked down Goodwill’s public relations manager, Kaley Briesmaster, to get the truth.

Goodwill accepts any clean clothing or textiles at all of its branches. At our local drive-through dropoff, the employee meets... Continue Reading >>

Update on actual 2016 Chevrolet Volt performance


January 25, 2017   By Elizabeth Kress in Green Power

Liz Kress is having a positive ownership experience with her Chevy Volt.

I’ve been driving a Chevrolet Volt for almost a year now, having driven it off the lot on Feb 27, 2016. Here are some of the things I’ve learned since then, starting with an updated “frequently asked questions” from my last blog.

How far can it go on a charge? The distance I get on an electric charge varies with temperature. My electric range is 60 miles during warm months, and 51 miles on a cold day. This really doesn’t change my driving pattern, because the gasoline engine can still cut in to go farther, and my typical daily mileage is 15 to 20 miles around town.

What is the equivalent fuel cost of running on electricity versus gas?  It is costing about 6 cents per mile when I’m running on gas. The Volt gets about 34 mpg on gas with 10 percent ethanol. When I’m running on electricity, it costs about 4 cents per mile. I used an electricity cost of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour for this calculation. This... Continue Reading >>

Forestry management important to South Carolina


December 01, 2016   By Elizabeth Kress in Environmental Stewardship

The Pinelands biomass plant near Harleyville, S.C., operated by EDF Renewable Energy, is capable of producing up to 17.8 megawatts of renewable energy derived from forestry and wood products found in South Carolina. Santee Cooper purchases energy from the plant and from a similar facility in Allendale County.

The forests in South Carolina are impressive and something that you notice as you drive anywhere in the state.

The trees push right up to the roads, often making a canopy. Walk a short way into the woods and you will notice the quiet that wraps and insulates you. Prior to Hurricane Hugo, the ride to Santee Cooper’s Wampee Conference Center gave you a feeling of going back in time because the trees seemed to pull you into a tunnel toward a previous age.

Recently, I was privileged to meet with some biomass experts on a U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service effort. The work involves modeling the available woody biomass resource within the state borders of South Carolina. Our S.C. Forestry Commission has a good handle on the size or “volume” of forests in our state.

They update the forest inventory numbers regularly, and are knowledgeable on the forces that affect both the supply and the demand for trees. The... Continue Reading >>

Hybrid electric vehicles: an owner’s personal perspective


October 26, 2016   By Elizabeth Kress in Green Power

Chevrolet has been selling the Volt, its plug-in hybrid, since 2011.

I have been planning to buy an electric car since 1978. During my junior year in college, I went to work as a summer intern for General Motors Corp.’s Delco-Remy division in Anderson, Ind. I helped build and test batteries for an electric car.

I still haven’t really bought one though, since my 2016 Chevrolet Volt is a lease. It’s also a plug-in hybrid, not fully electric. It costs $350 a month for a four-year lease, and someone else will have to worry about replacing the battery. Sticker price was $35,465, about the same as a pickup truck. Here are some of the more interesting answers to frequently asked questions:

How far can it go on a charge? Sixty miles, and then the gas engine starts to run. Once the gas engine starts, it gets an assist from the electric battery as can be seen from the battery usage indicator light showing charging and use. The battery assist helps improve gas mileage.

How far can it go with full... Continue Reading >>

Electric Utilities are the Answer to any Energy Problem


May 17, 2016   By Elizabeth Kress in Energy Matters

Public power has served America with reliable, affordable electricity for more than a century and is blazing a new path with renewable, cleaner energy in the future.

Too often today, it seems much of the public sees electric utilities as “the problem.”  The problem could be any of several.

Take your pick: rates too high, global warming, too much carbon dioxide emissions, not enough renewables, etc.  This blog will argue that the electric utilities are, in fact, the future answer and solution to these problems.

Electric utilities will be there to supply the energy that meets the future needs of our country.  When the public decides that it wants more renewable or carbon-free power, electric utilities will be there to find the best mix of renewables or carbon-free generation to fill that need. If the homeowner decides to supply some of his own power needs with solar panels, the electric utility will be there as backup to make sure the lights stay on, even if it rains for a fortnight.

Utilities understand generation choices and costs, and how to operate an electric grid so that... Continue Reading >>