December 21, 2014

SCE&G planning two solar farms in North Charleston, Cayce

Image: Santee Cooper

Santee Cooper currently operates the state’s largest solar farm in Colleton County

South Carolina Electric & Gas is moving forward with plans to put two solar farms on land it owns in the Lowcountry and the Midlands.

The utility announced Thursday that it’s seeking requests for proposals to put solar arrays at a former gas operations facility in North Charleston and next to its corporate headquarters in Cayce.

“After much careful planning we are excited to move forward with the construction of our first solar farms,” said Kevin Marsh, chairman and CEO of SCE&G’s parent company SCANA, said in a statement. “Solar is an integral component of our balanced generation portfolio as we strive to reach a diversified mix of 30% natural gas, 30% nuclear, 30% scrubbed coal and 10% hydro and other renewables over the next five years.”

SCE&G’s announcement comes two months after Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a measure that requires utilities to invest more in solar and other renewables. Under the law, participating utilities will be required to devote at least two percent of their generating capacity to renewable energy like solar.

But SCE&G spokeswoman Emily Brady said the utility was already looking to expand its solar offerings despite the new requirement.

“Renewables and solar, all of those types of energy generation are very exciting,” Brady told South Carolina Radio Network. “We’re excited to have it on our system. We approach energy generation in a diversified way.”

The Cayce solar farm’s 4 megawatt (MW) capacity would be the state’s largest solar facility when complete. The Leeds River installation in North Charleston would contribute up to an additional 500 kilowatts (0.5 MW). SCE&G said it hopes to eventually generate a total of 20 MW through its own facilities and those of customers who generate solar energy on their own property.

Those totals are still relatively modest compared to SCE&G’s overall capacity. For comparison, SCE&G’s coal and natural gas plants will generate 400-875 MW each by 2016 and the two SCE&G nuclear reactors under construction in Fairfield County will each generate more than 1,000 MW when complete.

Brady said the two solar sites will be able to power the equivalent of 500 homes when finished. The utility expects both sites to be operational next year.