South Carolina utility plans 425-MW solar project portfolio across state

South Carolina state-owned utility Santee Cooper has contracted the development of 425 MW of new utility-scale solar power to be added to its energy mix in 2023. The 425 MW of solar is equal to nearly 40% of the currently installed solar capacity in South Carolina.

Several projects will be built across the state and Central Electric Power Cooperative, Santee Cooper’s largest customer, will have a share of the PV generation as well. Santee Cooper has executed purchased power agreements for approximately 27.5% of the output of projects to be developed by Silicon Ranch, Johnson Development Associates, Ecoplexus and Birdseye Renewable Energy.

“The leadership at both Santee Cooper and Central deserve tremendous credit for their commitment to bring low-cost, clean renewable power to the state of South Carolina,” said Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CEO Reagan Farr. “Our company is honored to partner with these customer-centric utilities, and as the long-term owner of every solar project we develop, Silicon Ranch shares their sense of duty to the customers and communities they serve. We are confident these investments in clean energy will yield positive economic, environmental, and social benefits for the region.”

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch, the U.S. solar platform for Shell, will build, own and operate two projects in Georgetown County totaling 200 MW. The projects are named Lambert I and Lambert II and are expected to be operational in Q4 2023. Silicon Ranch has nearly 150 operating facilities across more than 15 states from New York to California.

Birdseye is developing a 75-MW solar farm in Aiken County. The project is named Chester White and is expected to be operational in Q4 2023. Birdseye, is a subsidiary of Dominion Energy, develops utility-scale solar projects throughout the Southeast.

“We’re excited to help make solar energy available to more South Carolinians,” said Brian Bednar, president of Birdseye Renewable Energy. “We will continue working with Santee Cooper, Central Electric Power Cooperative and Aiken County to develop this world-class solar project and create broadly-shared benefits for consumers and the local community.”

Ecoplexus will build a 75-MW solar project in Williamsburg County. The project is named Hemingway and is expected to be operational in Q2 2023. Ecoplexus is an international, solar, wind and energy storage developer, owner, and operator headquartered in the United States.

“Ecoplexus is delighted to help Santee Cooper and Central Electric Power meet their renewable energy goals in a cost-effective manner, and invest in the economy of the great state of South Carolina while improving its citizens’ quality of life,” said John Gorman, Ecoplexus CEO.

Johnson Development Associates (JDA) will develop a 75-MW solar farm near Summerville, in Dorchester County. The project, named Watson Hill #1, is expected to be operational in Q4 2023. JDA, part of The Johnson Group, is a multi-division real estate developer of industrial, multifamily, and self-storage properties on a nationwide scale. Based in Spartanburg, JDA has also developed a renewable energy platform focused on diversifying energy sources in South Carolina.

“These solar projects are the best of the best, in terms of delivering experience, reliability and competitively priced power, and the results prove that this kind of market-based approach produces the best benefits for our customers,” said Mark Bonsall, Santee Cooper president and CEO. “We are incredibly pleased to be working with an excellent group of solar developers as we transform our power supply to one that is significantly more sustainable and less expensive.”

These four developers were chosen from nearly 30 solar developers and a joint analysis by Santee Cooper and Central Electric Power Cooperative, of 58 submitted project proposals totaling more than 3,600 MW.

“Johnson Development is excited to be a part of diversifying energy sources in South Carolina by providing renewable energy to Santee Cooper,” said Hunter Dawkins, of Johnson Development Associates. “The Dorchester County project is one of several solar projects our team is developing across the state.”

Although Santee Cooper and Central have contracted separately for their respective load share of each project, Santee Cooper will manage the projects as part of its combined power system. As the aggregator for the state’s individual electric cooperatives, Central represents about 72.5% of the system load.

This group of solar projects represents the first of three phases Santee Cooper is planning as it transforms its generating portfolio to a leaner, greener mix. Other phases, of another approximately 500 MW each, are scheduled for later in the 2020s and early 2030s.

Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s responsible for providing electricity to 2 million people across the state.

News item from Santee Cooper

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