Utilities hope to learn about costs, reliability from Walterboro solar farm

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Jan. 28, 2014

The largest solar farm in the state is supplying electricity to power more than 300 homes in Walterboro.

TIG Sun Energy, a subsidiary of North Charleston-based The InterTech Group, is the owner and operator of the 14-acre Colleton Solar Farm. Utility and solar industry executives dedicated it Friday.

In its first month of production, the 3-megawatt solar complex produced enough energy to light 753 60-watt lightbulbs for eight hours a day.

Colleton Solar Farm from Charleston Business Journal on Vimeo.

The Colleton Solar Farm in Walterboro is supplying electricity to local homes. (Photo/Liz Segrist) 
The Colleton Solar Farm in Walterboro is supplying electricity to local homes. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
“Solar energy is in our future so we need to gain experience,” The InterTech Group Chairperson and CEO Anita Zucker said. “This facility is designed to do that.”

The site is forecast to generate approximately 4.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014. Santee Cooper Board Chairman Leighton Lord said utilities plan to use the farm as a model to create more solar farms around the state in the future.

Santee Cooper is collaborating with Central Electric Power Cooperative and the state’s electric cooperatives in purchasing the total energy output of the farm and studying data about the costs and integration of utility-scale solar power.

The solar array consists of 10,010 photovoltaic panels. Some panels are stationary. Other panels follow the direction of the sun to maximize the production of solar energy.

Santee Cooper selected TIG Sun Energy as the solar farm contractor on Oct. 7, 2013. Construction began a week later, and the farm began producing power Dec. 20.

“Santee Cooper knows that solar power has a bigger role to play in our state’s energy future,” Lord said. “Our challenge is figuring out how to integrate utility-scale solar generation and still keep our customers’ lights on when the cloud cover blocks the sun. We will be using the Colleton Solar Farm to build that knowledge base.”

Larry Hinz, president and CEO of Coastal Electric Cooperative and board chairman of the Central Electric Power Cooperative, said the project is an opportunity to learn how to use solar power as a reliable and affordable source of electricity for its customers.

Real-time power output of the Colleton Solar Farm is available online.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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