InterTech Group, SCE&G see bright future in solar

The Colleton Solar Farm just outside Walterboro has 10,010 panels. TIG Sun Energy, a subsidiary of The InterTech Group of North Charleston, developed the energy station. An InterTech-owned company is planning a new solar farm in North Charleston with SCE&G.

A company owned by The InterTech Group Inc. of North Charleston has struck a deal to make energy while the sun is shining right in its hometown.

TIG Sun Energy III will develop a 500-kilowatt solar station for South Carolina Electric & Gas at property on Leeds Avenue, the utility said Tuesday.

The project, to be built on land formerly used by SCE&G’s gas operations, will use more than 2,000 solar panels to generate about 946 megawatt hours of clean energy a year — enough to power 80 homes.

It will be SCE&G’s first utility-scale project following passage last year of the state’s Distributed Energy Resource Program Act, which established solar procedures and options for customers of investor-owned utilities.

“With the solar legislation fully implemented, we are now focused on getting these systems online,” Grant Reeves, senior vice president of The InterTech Group, said in a statement. “We are proud to be leaders in these environmentally beneficial, socially motivated but business-justifiable ventures.”

This is the North Charleston company’s second major investment in this area. Another subsidiary, TIG Sun Energy, owns and operates the Colleton Solar Farm, which sells solar power to Moncks Corner-based electric utility Santee Cooper. In its first year, the 15-acre site generated 4,687 megawatt hours of solar power.

Under the deal announced Tuesday, SCE&G will buy and resell the electricity from the Leeds Avenue panels, which will be owned and operated by TIG Sun Energy III. Danny Kassis, vice president of customer relations and renewables, said the project is the utility’s first step to create more power from renewable sources.

“We are pleased to add utility-scale solar capacity to our system and proud to be working with a South Carolina-based developer to do so,” Kassis said in a statement.

The SCANA Corp. subsidiary also is working to develop a smaller installation near its headquarters in Cayce. It will have a generating capacity of about 2 megawatts. By 2020, SCE&G will have at least 84 megawatts of solar generation on its system.

The company also announced new programs for solar customers Tuesday.

Residential customers can qualify for an incentive that pays them 4 cents per kilowatt hour for excess solar power generated from their homes and sold back to the company. That is in addition to existing payment deals, known as “net metering” agreements.

“This means residential customers could potentially pay off their rooftop solar investments in as little as six years,” John Raftery, general manager of renewable products for SCE&G, said in a statement.

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Residential customers and some nonprofit organizations, such as schools, churches and municipalities, also will begin to have opportunities to participate in SCE&G-managed solar farms starting in mid-2016. Community farms allow customers to invest in off-site solar instead of rooftop panels. It also makes solar energy available to residential customers who rent their homes.

For nonresidential customers, a bill-credit incentive will let SCE&G credit all of a customer’s solar electricity production directly on that customer’s utility bill based on the size of the system. A separate bill-credit program has been developed for churches, schools and municipalities.

SCE&G said about 400 solar customers are connected to its electrical grid now.

Reach David Wren at (843) 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_