The Colleton Solar Farm, the largest facility of its kind in the state, is producing electricity just nine weeks after construction began on the project. Utility and solar industry executives officially dedicated the solar array during a ceremony January 24 in Walterboro.
TIG Sun Energy, a subsidiary of the North Charleston-based InterTech Group, is the owner and operator of the Colleton Solar Farm. Santee Cooper, in collaboration with Central Electric Power Cooperative and the state’s electric cooperatives, are purchasing the total energy output of the farm and studying data about the costs and integration of utility-scale solar power.
Santee Cooper selected TIG Sun Energy as the solar farm contractor on Oct. 7, 2013. Construction on the 14-acre site began a week later. The farm officially began producing power on Dec. 20. The solar array consists of 10,010 photovoltaic panels. Some panels are fixed while other panels follow the direction of the sun to maximize the production of solar energy.
“Santee Cooper and the state’s electrical cooperatives are to be commended for their leadership that made this project possible,” said Anita Zucker, chairperson and CEO of The InterTech Group, Inc. “Solar energy is in our future so we need to gain experience. This facility is designed to do that.”
The 3-megawatt solar complex provides enough energy to power more than 300 homes. In its first month of production, the Colleton Solar Farm produced enough energy to light 753 light bulbs (60 watt) for eight hours a day. The site is forecast to generate approximately 4,468,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014 (4.468 megawatt-hours).
“Santee Cooper knows that solar power has a bigger role to play in our state’s energy future,” said Leighton Lord, chairman of the Santee Cooper Board of Directors. “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.”
“The timing is right for this project,” said Larry Hinz, president and CEO of Coastal Electric Cooperative, and chairman of the board of trustees of Central Electric Power Cooperative. “We’ve heard from cooperative members who are interested in solar energy. Now, it’s our turn to develop a consumer-friendly product that makes solar power available in a reliable and economically sustainable way. This project gives us a tremendous opportunity to learn how we can make solar successful in South Carolina.”
The dedication of the Colleton Solar Farm continues a 13-year renewable energy history for Santee Cooper and the electric cooperatives. The utilities began generating and distributing renewable landfill gas energy in 2001, and since then have steadily increased renewable generation, using homegrown, South Carolina resources.
You can see real-time power output of the Colleton Solar Farm by going to: