Coal generated electricity and climate change versus solar energy as a renewable energy source for South Carolina

by GianCarlo Belloli, Solar Consultant, RayWell Solar

Recently moving to Charleston I am impressed by its beauty, but more so by the open friendliness of the people. I meet people every day here, and they are welcoming to me. In California this is not always true. Relocating to South Carolina has been made very easy by the people, I find them enchanting. Being in the solar industry I started researching how electricity is generated in the state, and to my surprise I found out that the 40.6% of it is produced by burning coal. I stumbled across an article written by the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled “Burning Coal Burning Cash South Carolina’s Dependence on Imported Coal.” 

Read the Article form the Union of Concerned Scientists

It states, “South Carolina imported all the coal its power plants burned in 2008—some from as far away as South Africa. To pay for those imports, South Carolina sent $1.1 billion out of state.” Imagine if South Carolina’s population focused more on energy independence through solar energy. Think of how many local jobs could be created. Also, the staggering “$1.1B” number would be reduced and local economies would be stimulated with job growth. Isn’t that what we all want at this stage in our history?

Another important factor is the environmental impact of burning coal to fuel power plants. “Santee Cooper, a state-owned electric utility and South Carolina’s largest power producer, purchased $453 million in coal imports—about 40 percent of the state’s total, and more than any other power producer in the state. The utility’s Cross generating station, near Pineville, is the most import-dependent power facility in South Carolina, having spent $276 million in 2008. The plant is also the thirty-sixth-largest source of carbon dioxide emissions (the main cause of global warming) among hundreds of coal plants nationwide.”

Along the lines of keeping more money in the state, you should consider buying solar from a local solar company (like Raywell Solar). Smaller companies generally have better pricing than national solar companies with huge overhead and inflated salaries. Also, working in the solar industry for years, I have found that these big companies generally use less expensive products, and sell them for more. They just get more attention because they spend lots of money to gain customers attention. It is a race to find the most customers as fast as possible.

Another interesting point is the State of South Carolina has a tax credit of 25% of the total cost. Coupled with the 30% Federal tax credit, 55% of a solar system is paid for through incentives (for more info on tax credits, see the Tax Benefits page). Besides always wanting to live in Charleston when I was doing my research on South Carolina’s solar industry, I saw how attractive this state is trying to make going solar for its residence. California doesn’t have a state solar tax credit. In my opinion, it’s time for solar to get on more houses and businesses and reduce our dependence on Coal. If you haven’t taken a look at the cost and the payback, you might be surprised. Not only will you save money, but you will be helping the local economy and our environment.

To see the quick fact sheet from the UCS, visit http://www.scbiomass.org/Resources/Documents/ucs-bcbc-factsheet-south-carolina.pdf.