Dominion to build South Carolina’s largest solar project

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In the last few years, the Southeast has become a hot location for big solar, with North Carolina representing the second-largest PV market in the nation for several years, and Georgia taking third place in 2016.

But while its two neighboring states have seen booms, South Carolina has remained a modest market, coming in 20th place in 2016 for watts installed. But that may be changing.

Yesterday. power company Dominion announced plans to install 81 MW-AC of solar at two projects in Jasper County, S.C., the larger of which will be the state’s biggest plant to date at 71 MW-AC. This follows on announcements for hundreds of megawatts of solar projects since the first of the year.

Both of Dominion’s projects hold long-term power purchase agreements with utility South Carolina Electric & Gas, which Dominion secured under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 (PURPA). This law requires that utilities buy power from projects if they are below the utility’s calculation of what it otherwise expects to pay for electricity.

PURPA has been a big driver of utility-scale solar in neighboring North Carolina. However, Duke Energy has been seeking to amend the terms of PURPA in the state, alleging that it is over-paying for solar due to falling power prices.

Belgian chemical company Solvay will buy all of the renewable energy credits associated with the larger of the two projects, the Solvay Solar Energy-Jasper County project. These credits have no value in South Carolina as, like most states in the South, South Carolina has no statewide renewable energy mandate.

Minnesota’s Mortenson Construction will construct both the 71 MW-AC Solvay and 10 MW-AC Ridgeline projects, both of which feature single-axis tracking, and expects to complete the two by the end of the year. Mortenson is the fourth-largest utility-scale solar contractor in the United States, according to a recent survey by IHS Markit, with a 9% share of the national market in 2016.

Dominion acquired the Solvay and Ridgeline projects from Adger Solar in 2016. The company notes that these projects will expand its PV capacity to more than 1.5 GW of installed solar in nine states.