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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 when the sun shines.

Of this 176MW, 36 MW was under lease and 140 MW was owned. Their reports show 10,017 cumulative installations in place as of July 31, which is a huge jump from the 834 MW that existed in 2015.

Utilities in South Carolina are involved with integrating the solar onto their distribution grids. The investor-owned utilities report on their progress in meeting their goals under Act 236 legislation, which defines this type of solar generation as Distributed Energy Resources (DER). A component of Act 236 is “net metering,” which is a billing mechanism that credits owners of solar energy systems on their power bills for the electricity they add to the grid.

Duke reported on their targets for net-metered installations showing 46 MW installed as a total of 3,731 separate installations.  S.C. Electric & Gas Co. (SCE&G) showed 44.5 MW under their net-metering program, with an additional 9.5 MW under a different program called a “bill credit agreement.”

Additionally, SCE&G reported 48 MW from nine interconnected solar farms ranging from 0.5 MW to 10 MW, which met their Act 236 requirements. Outside of these 48 MW of DER farms, 211 MW of solar farms are interconnected or under construction.

What does all this mean to you? It means that solar investments and knowledge are active now in South Carolina. There is someone near you who can comment on his or her actual experience with solar-module performance. The utilities will support this solar with the other generation in their portfolios, so that you have electricity night and day, stormy weather or fair.

Stay tuned for more solar happenings in our sunny state of South Carolina.