Big Solar Brightens Up South Carolina Economy

Chris Carnevale | March 2, 2016 | Energy Policy, Solar

Adger Solar‘s two new solar power projects in South Carolina have made it into the public eye as they undergo local government review. We anticipate that these projects will deliver roughly 80 megawatts (MW) of solar power to South Carolina, which is roughly equivalent to the peak output of a small coal plant. SACE is very pleased that news of this project is now public – we have been working with allies to crack open the South Carolina market to utility-scale solar development for several years.

Adger Solar, a South Carolina company affiliated with Hudson Energy Development, is reported to be planning two solar farms in Jasper County. One is an 80-acre solar farm in Ridgeland, South Carolina, and the other is on a larger parcel in Jasper County, which will be the largest solar farm in the state. Together, the two projects will generate as much energy as used by roughly 15,000 homes. Adger Solar is also planning a half dozen other projects around the state, which are in varying stages of development.

The Ridgeland and Jasper County projects will be important for South Carolina because they represent the first large solar development to be put under contract without any special inducements. The power will be sold to South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) at a price that is below what the utility would pay over the next 15-20 years to supply the same power using its existing or new-build power plants. We expect that customers will save millions of dollars in future electric bills, thanks to these projects, given that solar power can reduce operating costs for utilities.

It is also important to recognize South Carolina Electric & Gas for its role in this project. Some Southeastern utilities are easier to work with than others. One of the essential elements to this deal is a long-term contract of at least 15 years. For example, Duke Energy limits contract terms in South Carolina to 10 years, which is untenable for most solar developers.

The solar farms represent a sound economic development tool for the Town of Ridgeland and Jasper County. The Jasper County Sun Times reports that the Ridgeland project (the smaller of the two projects) will represent an initial $20 million investment in the community and an anticipated $20,000-$25,000 in property tax revenue annually. The project will create several dozen temporary construction jobs and three permanent operations and maintenance jobs.

These projects will help SCE&G achieve – and potentially exceed – its goal of 84 MW of solar by 2020. While South Carolina’s 2014 solar legislation, Act 236, helps to break ground for solar deployment statewide, the addition of 80 MW of solar through these two projects far exceeds the scope of the law (which allows utility cost recovery for project no larger than 10 MW), and shows that utility-scale solar development is cost-effective in South Carolina.

With these two solar additions, Jasper County would be host to larger solar PV facilities than any found in Florida, the Sunshine State. Soon it may come time to say, “Move over, Florida… looks like Ridgeland is the new I-95 hotspot to catch some rays.”

Update: SCE&G has formally requested Commission approval for the 71.4 MW Moffett Solar 1 project.

Chris Carnevale
Chris is SACE’s Climate Advocacy Director. Chris joined the SACE staff in 2011 to help with building public understanding and engagement around clean energy solutions to the climate crisis. Chris…
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