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August 22, 2014

SCE&G building solar farms in Cayce, North Charleston

South Carolina Electric & Gas next year will build a three- to four-megawatt solar farm adjacent to its Cayce headquarters, putting on hold plans for a solar farm near the Lake Murray dam.

South Carolina Electric & Gas next year will build a three- to four-megawatt solar farm adjacent to its Cayce headquarters, putting on hold plans for a solar farm near the Lake Murray dam.

The utility also said Thursday it will build a smaller solar farm in North Charleston.

The utility, chief subsidiary of SCANA Corp., said Thursday it is seeking requests for proposals from companies that want to build and operate the solar farms on the company’s property, leasing the solar power back to the utility.

The Cayce solar farm will sit on 20 acres on SCANA’s campus, off Interstate 77. The utility, which provides power to 684,000 S.C. customers, moved into the new headquarters five years ago. The North Charleston farm will be built on three acres off I-526 and will generate 300 to 500 kilowatts of power.

Both sites are expected to be operational by next year, the company said.

The company said last year that it was forming a renewable energy team and planned to install 20 megawatts of solar energy on its system by 2020. That is enough to serve about 20,000 homes. Still, renewable energy remains a small sliver in SCANA’s mix of energy generation.

The company wants to get 30 percent of its power from natural gas, nuclear and scrubbed coal each, with the remaining 10 percent to come from “hydro and other renewables,” SCANA chief executive Kevin Marsh said in a statement.

The utility originally planned to build its first solar farm this year on seven acres near an aging coal plant at the Lake Murray dam. But the two-megawatt farm has stalled.

“That site is still on the table but may be developed at a later date,” the company said in a statement.

Spokeswoman Emily Brady said the Lake Murray site, which is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission, was moving along more slowly because it requires more federal oversight and approval.

“We do think it probably will happen,” she said. “It’s just taking longer than we originally thought.”

The other two sites in Cayce and North Charleston are ready to develop now, she said.

“After much careful planning, we are excited to move forward with the construction of our first solar farms,” Marsh said in the statement, adding solar is an “integral component of our balanced generation portfolio.”

SCE&G has been criticized in the past for its resistance to renewable energy. But solar energy advocates have praised its plan to step up its use of sun power.

Solar power is popular because it doesn’t create radioactive waste, like that generated at nuclear power plants, or pollute the air with toxins and greenhouse gases, like those released from coal-fired power plants.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed a new law in June that requires power companies to increase their use of solar energy by 2021 and giving them the ability to recover some costs. The state Public Service Commission is expected to look at the cost issues associated with solar power this fall.

That bill originally was intended to help make consumers’ roof-top solar systems more affordable, but any financial relief won’t occur until after the PSC has weighed in.

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, the company said in its statement.

“We are proud to have been part of the collaborative process that resulted in the new legislation, which will provide a strong foundation for integrating more renewable energy in South Carolina benefiting us all,” Marcus Harris, general manager of renewable products and services for SCE&G, said in the statement. “These first two solar farms will demonstrate our commitment to advancing solar energy in the state.”

SCANA’s stock rose 15 cents, or 0.29 percent, to $51.27 a share in Thursday trading.

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