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Dominion Energy talks about projects in Gillisonville, Grahamville

  • County Council members Henry Etheridge and Colonel Drayton both talked with Dominion Energy representatives about the solar project in Gillisonville. (Liz Bloom/Jasper County Sun Times)
  • Adger Solar representatives gave out goodies to community members who stopped by to learn about solar energy. (Liz Bloom/Jasper County Sun Times)
  • Members from the community, county council and representatives from the three solar energy companies gathered to discuss the growing presence of solar energy in Jasper. (Liz Bloom/Jasper County Sun Times)

Solar energy is becoming prevalent in Jasper County.

The new renewable energy introduction in South Carolina is growing, and last week Dominion Energy hosted an open house to educate and share the benefits of switching to community solar energy.

Information was given on the approximately 900-acre Gillisonville solar farm (Dominion’s Solvay Solar Energy-Jasper County) and the 80-acre Grahamville site (Ridgeland Solar Farm).

At the meeting, held in Jasper County Council chambers May 23, stood a life-sized solar panel. A panel stands at about 6-foot-6. Each panel is connected to a mount and on the other side sits a second panel.

“We’ll have 308,000 of these on the two sites,” said Mike Frazier, a media representative for Dominion Energy. “In North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, the average family uses about 1,000-kilowatt hours per month of energy. That’s pretty close in most states — South Carolina is probably about the same. These panels at the farm can generate about 1/15 of one home’s average energy use per day.”

The panels are connected to a rotating axis — a single axis track — that changes orientation as the sun moves throughout the day.

For example, at 7 a.m, the panels are oriented east at roughly a 45-degree angle to absorb the most sunlight.

About noon, the panels will likely be at a 0-degree angle — completely horizontal. At about 7 p.m, the panels would rotate toward the west at a 45-degree angle. The rotation allows for more solar rays to be harvested at longer periods of time during a single day.

“When people were originally doing solar panels, they were doing fixed tilt and you won’t get as much efficiency on that panel. We’ve also got a project in North Carolina that works on a double-axis track,” said Frazier. “But you’re going to get a little loss anyway because this (the panel) generates direct current (DC) electric and it needs to be inverted to AC (alternating current) — you’ll lose some (energy). This project is 71-megawatt AC, but DC is more than 90-megawatts.”

Dominion Energy, the company powering the Gillisonville and Ridgeland Solar Farm projects, works with solar energy, natural gas, as well as other energy options. The company began working in solar energy in 2013 and entered South Carolina in early 2015.

“In the past four years, we have built more than 1,000 megawatts in nine states, including here in South Carolina,” Frazier said. “South Carolina has a great business climate, it has excellent bipartisan leadership and we believe we can work well in the state.”

The Lowcountry, particularly Jasper County, is optimal for solar companies. The flat geography makes installation of the panels easier. The climate and weather — the long hours of sunshine — also benefit solar companies.

Around the panels, native grasses and shrubbery are planted. These plants help to attract bees and other insects. Since trees or larger vegetation would interfere with the harvesting of solar rays, solar farms are not conducive habitats for other local animals. But according to Frazier, the local shrubbery and grasses provide good homes for insect and smaller species. The Gillisonville solar farm is expected to be completed by early December.

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