South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. is looking to let a little more sunshine in.
The Cayce-based utility said it will work with private-sector developers to build a solar energy farm off Leeds Avenue in North Charleston and a second one in Cayce.
The SCANA Corp. subsidiary on Thursday that it was asking potential bidders to submit proposals. The selected developer will provide the electricity to the utility through purchased power agreements.
SCE&G is using a 3-acre site at the former Leeds Avenue Gas Operations plant off Interstate 526 for the North Charleston operation. It will generate between 300 and 500 kilowatts, or enough to power up to 80 or so homes.
The Midlands site will sit on 20 acres adjacent to SCANA's corporate headquarters on Interstate 77 and will generate between three and four megawatts, or enough to power about 650 homes.
Both sites are expected to be operational by 2015.
One megawatt of solar power will power 164 homes on average nationally, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The number of homes powered by solar can vary from state to state depending on average sunshine, household consumption and temperature and wind.
"After much careful planning, we are excited to move forward with the construction of our first solar farms," said Kevin Marsh, chairman and CEO of SCANA. "Solar is an integral component of our balanced generation portfolio as we strive to reach a diversified mix of 30 percent natural gas, 30 percent nuclear, 30 percent scrubbed coal and 10 percent hydro and other renewables over the next five years."
In late 2013, SCE&G committed to install 20 megawatts of solar energy on its system by 2020. Initial plans were to build on a site near Lake Murray. That site is still on the table but may be developed at a later date, the company said.
In a high-profile project several years ago, the utility worked with Boeing South Carolina to install a 10-acre solar farm on the roof of the company's 787 assembly plant at Charleston International Airport.
The new Distributed Energy Resource Program Act opened the door for more solar investment across the state. Signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley in June, the legislation includes a provision that would allow SCE&G to add both utility-scale and customer-installed solar energy to its system, in addition to the 20 megawatts announced last year.
One firm likely to submit a proposal to SCE&G is The InterTech Group Inc., according to Robert Johnston, executive vice president of strategy.
The North Charleston-based global industrial conglomerate invests heavily in the energy industry, including alternative power sources.
"We have probably been one of the strongest proponents of solar energy in the South for the past few years," Johnston said. "We are very invested in solar. We believe in the technology. If there is anything we can do to further that cause, we are interested."
The Jenkins Avenue company has solar panels on its roof. It also invested $6 million to build the state's largest solar farm last year in Colleton County, where it produces three megawatts under an arrangement with state-owned utility Santee Cooper.
SCE&G provides power to about 684,000 customers in 24 counties in South Carolina. About half of those are in the Lowcountry. It also provides natural gas service to about 332,000 customers in 38 counties. Many of those are also in the Charleston area.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.