Santee Cooper to test the idea of solar with 3-MW project

South Carolina’s Santee Cooper has awarded a contract to Liberty Sun Energy to build and operate the state’s largest solar farm, a 3-MW project near Walterboro in Colleton County.

This project will provide renewable energy and also vital data about the costs and integration of utility-scale solar power in South Carolina, said the state-owned utility on Oct. 7. The utility is more formally known as the South Carolina Public Service Authority.

Construction is expected to begin Oct. 14, with project completion anticipated by the end of 2013. Santee Cooper will purchase the farm’s solar power in collaboration with Central Electric Power Cooperative and the state’s electric cooperatives.

Liberty Sun Energy, an affiliate of North Charleston-based The InterTech Group, is dedicated to developing solar power projects in South Carolina.

“We aim to demonstrate the economic viability of solar energy to the utilities and hope this project is the first of many in our state,” said Grant Reeves, senior vice president of The InterTech Group. “Our South Carolina-based team, which includes partners Alder Energy Systems and Gregory Electric Company Inc., has developed a world class project that will demonstrate the many benefits of renewable energy.”

“We have a lot to learn about integrating solar power into our existing generation fleet, from a cost standpoint and from a reliability standpoint, because sunshine is an intermittent resource,” said Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper president and CEO. “Liberty Sun brought us a solid proposal that will yield data we will use in shaping our generation portfolio going forward.”

“This project is a real-world, full-scale learning tool,” said Ron Calcaterra, president and CEO of Central Electric Power Cooperative. “The question co-ops want to answer is how we can design a consumer-friendly product that makes solar power available to our members in a reliable, affordable and economically sustainable way. We expect to gain a tremendous amount of insight from this installation.”

The project raises the bar on an already 12-year renewable power history for Santee Cooper and the electric cooperatives. The utilities began generating and distributing Green Power in 2001, and since then have steadily increased renewable generation in South Carolina, using South Carolina resources.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.