Walterboro, SC (WLTX) -- In December, South Carolina's first utility-grade solar facility began operating in Walterboro, and on Friday the companies responsible for the new technology held a dedication ceremony teaching attendees more about the Colleton Solar Farm.
More than 10,000 panels sit on 14 acres of land, making it the largest solar facility in the state. It's operated by a subsidiary of the InterTech Group out of North Charleston, who then sells the energy to Santee Cooper and the Central Electic Power Cooperative to directly help customers.
"When there are fluctuations in certain types of power generation, be it coal, nuclear, natural gas, or solar, it'll be more even," said Santee Cooper Chairman, Leighton Lord. "Fluctuation won't affect them as badly."
Since the farm is so new, it will serve as a training ground for the companies to determine the best and most cost effective ways to harness the technology.
"We're giving this whole state an opportunity to do research and to learn more about the effectiveness of solar energy and how it can be used," said InterTech Group Chairman and CEO, Anita Zucker. "The best part is that the costs are constantly going down to actually put solar panels in."
Representatives say the state has added the solar energy to their list at the right time because costs are beginning to compare to other energy options. Since it's more affordable, residents are buying the panels for personal use, and the companies must figure out how to fairly charge customers without their own solar energy source. Fairness will also join reliability as an issue to tackle.
"Right now, the sun is out so it's easy, but what do we do when the sun goes down immediately? How do we have back-up generation that can take care of that," said Zucker. "How do we make sure the system is reliable? Reliability is something people don't think about, they think of cost."
Throughout the next year, the companies will closely look at those issues and say they're confident solutions will be found and more solar farms are in South Carolina's future.