Colleton Solar Farm’s success sheds light on energy option

The Colleton Solar Farm in Walterboro can provide enough energy to power more than 300 homes.

The Colleton Solar Farm, which sells electricity to Moncks Corner-based Santee Cooper and other electric companies throughout the state, is meeting its power-production goals, officials said Thursday.

The 15-acre site in Walterboro generated 4,687 megawatt-hours — enough to power more than 1,200 60-watt light bulbs for eight hours a day — in the year after it started operations on Dec. 21, 2013. All told, the facility provides enough energy to power more than 300 homes.

“Through this first year, performance from the Colleton Solar Farm has been consistent with expectations, which has validated the project and highlighted the intermittency of the resource,” Marc Tye, Santee Cooper’s vice president of customer service, said in a statement. “Solar power is only available when the sun is shining, and there are times when that helps South Carolina electric consumers and times when other energy sources must be utilized instead.”

Grant Reeves, senior vice president of TIG Sun Energy, an affiliate of The InterTech Group that owns the solar farm under a contract with Santee Cooper, called its initial performance “a very good year.”

“But more than anything, I believe the construction of Colleton Solar Farm did more to advance solar energy as a potential resource in South Carolina than any other project in the state,” Reeves said in a statement.

The solar farm is said to be the largest solar installation in South Carolina, with 10,010 photovoltaic panels, including about 400 that use tracking technology to follow the sun. Data indicate the tracking panels generate power for about 3½ hours longer than the fixed panels during the longest days of summer. Nearly two hours of that time is electricity delivered during the afternoon peak of power demand.

Santee Cooper is buying the solar output in collaboration with Central Electric Power Cooperative and the state’s other electric co-ops. The solar farm was planned as an energy source and a resource for studying data on costs, performance and integration of utility-scale solar power into the electric grid.

“Much has been learned in the initial year of operation regarding the performance of the fixed-tilt and tracking panels installed at the site,” Mark Svrcek, chief operating officer and senior vice president of corporate strategy at Central Electric Power, said in a statement. “We expect to find out more in 2015.”

TIG Sun Energy I LLC was formed to develop solar projects by North Charleston-based InterTech Group, a global company with wholly owned operations and investments in multiple industries, including aerospace, chemicals, sports, finance and real estate.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550.