South Carolina-based Santee Cooper has approved a community solar project and new rebates for the utility’s community and rooftop solar programs. According to the company, all programs will launch April 1 and are designed to help customers invest in solar power and cut their electric bills over the life of the programs.
Solar Share, which Santee Cooper says will be the first community solar project available for subscription in South Carolina, will offer customers the opportunity to purchase the output from a share of the existing Colleton Solar Farm and receive a rebate for subscriptions of up to 4 kW. Customers will receive a credit on their monthly Santee Cooper electric bill reflecting their share of solar energy produced each month at the solar farm, which is owned and operated by TIG Sun Energy and provides solar power under contract to Santee Cooper.
The purchase price for this year is $1.88/W, offset by a $1/W rebate, for a net cost to customers of $880 for a 1 kW subscription. Subscriptions will be available through 2018 or until 1 MW is subscribed, with the purchase price and rebate amount evaluated each year as the solar panels age.
“Santee Cooper has been the state’s leader in solar power for a decade, and we are pleased to open yet another chapter with South Carolina’s first community solar program,” sats Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper’s president and CEO. “On April 1, our rooftop and community solar programs and related incentives will bring the benefits of solar power to all of our customers, whether they own a roof or not.”
Santee Cooper has also increased rebates for customers who install solar panels on their own roofs. Under the Santee Cooper Solar Home and Santee Cooper Solar Business programs, the utility will rebate $1.30/W, up to 4 kW. That rebate totals $5,200 for a 4 kW system.
The company says community and rooftop solar customers will be charged a monthly standby fee to ensure they are covering their portion of fixed costs to provide them electricity, so that those fixed costs are not shifted to other customers. They will also receive an energy credit of about $0.038/kWh for any excess solar power produced that is put back on the grid. The first 500 residential rooftop customers to sign up will receive an additional $0.03/kWh credit for excess electricity through 2018, which is also the term for which rebates will be available.
Santee Cooper anticipates the solar panels customers install will last for 20 years, and the residential and commercial rooftop incentives are designed to help customers recover their purchase costs in about 12.5 years, depending on installed capacity, energy use and other variables. The Colleton Solar Farm is already two years old; therefore, the Solar Share investments made in 2016 will be for 18 years, with incentives designed so that customers could recover their purchase costs in about 10 years, depending on subscription size, energy use and other variables.
Photo courtesy of Jim Huff/Santee Cooper: The Colleton Solar Farm near Walterboro, S.C.