The solar power industry is heating up in South Carolina

Updated: Jun. 9, 2017 at 8:46 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Governor Henry McMaster has announced a major new investment in renewable energy for the Palmetto State - a $100 million project to create a 74-megawatt solar panel farm near Edgefield Highway in Aiken County.

It's the third South Carolina installation for a company called Adger Solar.

Solar energy and the rapidly improving technology for gathering it has created rapid growth for companies like Sunrun near I-20 and Monticello Road.

"It's kind of a way to save money, go green and take something back from the utility companies," Chris Fitzsimmons, Sunrun's construction supervisor says.

Sunrun is among at least a dozen solar panel businesses operating in the Midlands offering customers lighter, higher performance panels.

"When I first started we were only using 175-watt panels," Fitzsimmons said.

"The ones we're installing now are 300-watt panels each. So they've become way more efficient. At the same time, the 300-watt panels are probably cheaper to produce than the 175 watts that we were using six years ago,"  Fitzsimmons said.

This week one big utility, SCE&G, rolled out a new option for customers interested in solar, but not willing or unable to install their own rooftop systems. The Community Solar program lets customers subscribe to or buy panels in a remotely located solar farm.

"Some customers don't own the roof. They're renters," says SCE&G's John Raftery. "Some customers, the age of the roof would require them to replace the roof before they put solar on top of the roof. Some customers don't have the ability to buy the panels upfront or outright. In our Community Solar program they can subscribe to the power production. There are certain homeowners association covenant restrictions that would limit the customer from putting rooftop solar in place."

SCE&G is adding solar panels to its own campus off Saxe Gotha Road near I-77 in Cayce. The 1.6-megawatt solar array is supposed to be completed by the end of the year.

The governor's office says the Adger Solar project in Aiken County will be operational by 2019 and will provide clean energy to 15,000 homes.

The company also has two solar generating facilities in Jasper County.

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