Hubner Manufacturing solar

Hubner Manufacturing has installed 2,700 solar panels on the roof of its Wando Park Boulevard facility in Mount Pleasant. Provided

One of Mount Pleasant's biggest manufacturing operations has plugged in the town's largest solar installation, sending enough power into the electric grid to light up 100 homes.

But Hubner Manufacturing, which makes parts for public transit systems, talks about it this way: It could power 11 or 12 big, articulated buses instead.

At its facility on Wando Park Boulevard, Hubner builds the passageways that connect train cars to each other and the bending part of long buses. In most of America's big cities, when passengers walk down a streetcar or a subway, they pass through a part built in Mount Pleasant.

They're built in a newly expanded facility - its footprint has grown twice since 2010 - now decked with 2,700 solar panels. Chief executive Ron Paquette, the head of the German company's U.S. subsidiary, flipped a ceremonial switch on the system Friday.

John Rafferty, general manager for renewable products at South Carolina Electric & Gas, said the new installation represents a third of Mount Pleasant's solar capacity. The town has enough panels now to pump 2 megawatts of power into the grid.

Elsewhere in the region, most of the area's growing renewable energy production has come from giant solar farms and panels installed on residential rooftops. But other manufacturers have expressed interest: Boeing, for instance, can generate 2.6 megawatts of electricity from a big rooftop installation at its main North Charleston campus.

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Over the past two years, solar has grown rapidly in South Carolina, thanks in part to state legislation intended to make it more appealing to homeowners and businesses. The state also offers a hefty tax credit.

Nearly 2,800 people worked in the industry statewide last year, an increase of more than 50 percent in just a year. That was one of the biggest increases in the nation.

"One of the thing that was most exciting about this job to me was that I was able to actually get in a car and go to work, instead of getting on a plane and going to work," said retired Col. Dave McNeil, chief executive of Hannah Solar Government Services, the contractor installed the Hubner array. "The solar industry has just exploded in this state."

Reach Thad Moore at 843-937-5703 or on Twitter @thadmoore.

Thad Moore is a reporter on The Post and Courier’s Watchdog and Public Service team, a native of Columbia and a graduate of the University of South Carolina. His career at the newspaper started on the business desk in 2016.