Santee Cooper is boosting its solar generation portfolio, coming to terms on a contract for a 27.5% share of 425 MW of new utility-scale solar set to become active in South Carolina in 2023.
Central Electric Power Cooperative, Santee Cooper’s largest customer, finalized contracts with the same developers for the remaining share of about 308 MW.
The 425 MW will be coming to South Carolina across five projects and represents an addition of roughly 40% of the state’s current installed solar capacity. Nashville-based Silicon Ranch will build, own, and operate two projects near Charleston in Georgetown County totaling 200 MW. The projects are named Lambert I and Lambert II and are expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Birdseye Renewable Energy, a developer based in Charlotte, North Carolina and subsidiary of Dominion Energy, is developing a 75 MW solar farm in Aiken County, named Chester White. Chester White is expected to be operational in the west-central part of the state in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Ecoplexus, a developer with offices in Durham, North Carolina, will build a 75 MW solar project in Williamsburg County, northeast of Charleston. That project will be named Hemingway and is expected to be operational in the second quarter of 2023.
The final project, a 75-MW solar farm near Summerville, in Dorchester County, will be developed by Johnson Development Associates, based in Spartanburg. The project, the only one of the group yet to be named, is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Although Santee Cooper and Central have contracted separately for their 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 undertaking to ensure a greener mix in its generation portfolio. The two remaining phases, approximately 500 MW each, are scheduled for later in the 2020s and early 2030s.
The additions should also help Santee Cooper to improve its position as a solar player in the Southeast U.S. The newest edition of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Solar In the Southeast report has Santee Cooper near the bottom of all the region’s major utilities in terms of installed watts of solar capacity per electricity customer. The report’s four-year outlook predicted some improvement for the utility, boosting its watts-per-customer ratio from 83 in 2020 to an anticipated 644 in 2024.
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