December 10, 2014

The More People Know Solar, Use, Support Grow in South Carolina

THE ISSUE: Solar energy and environmental consciousness; OUR OPINION: Claflin is a major energy user already making use of sun’s energy

An abundant supply of energy and the systems to deliver are facts of life for which South Carolinians and Americans can be thankful.

But just as conserving energy and finding alternative sources are important when it comes to fueling the the way we travel, so too is looking at conservation and alternatives in residential and commercial power.

A recent poll shows that 73 percent of South Carolina voters want to see more rooftop solar energy deployed in the Palmetto State. The public support for rooftop solar is consistent with the state Legislature’s unanimous vote in favor of a landmark solar energy law passed earlier this year.

The research team of Wenzel Strategies surveyed 606 voters in South Carolina from Oct 9-10. In addition to indicating strong support for a growing rooftop solar market, other key findings include:

* 75 percent of respondents expressed overwhelming support for solar energy being an important part of providing energy choice and competition in the electricity market.

* 85 percent of respondents believe they should “have the right to choose where (their) energy comes from.”

* 92 percent of respondents believe consumers who invest in solar should not be required to pay an additional fee to their power company.

Complementary to this poll is a recent study from Mississippi indicating that the solar opportunity for South Carolina is even better than the state Legislature envisioned. This study, conducted for the Mississippi Public Service Commission, found that rooftop solar can put downward pressure on everyone’s electricity rates and deliver a financial benefit to all ratepayers.

Mississippi’s study looked at solar net metering, a program that South Carolina’s investor-owned utilities offer today. Net metering allows customers who invest in rooftop solar to get full retail credit for the excess power they put back on the grid. The utility takes that electricity and sells it to neighboring homes and businesses at the retail rate.

South Carolina’s new solar law includes provisions to further expand and improve the state’s current net metering program. As indicated by the study in Mississippi, this is a financial benefit to all South Carolinians.
The potential for solar is not being lost on major energy users right here in Orangeburg.

As part of a new sustainability initiative to promote recycling and energy saving, Claflin University is using solar energy.

Solar panels are located on three buildings on campus: Kleist Hall, Corson Hall and the dining hall. The panels are strategically located to absorb the most sunlight and provide energy to heat the water in the buildings (used for showers, washing machines and washing dishes).

Complementing the alternative energy source, Claflin is also placing emphasis on reducing overall power use. Energy-saving contests are being planned within residence halls. Meters will be used to see who is using the least amount of energy.

In related developments, Claflin has also expanded recycling efforts and is decreasing food waste through the use of a “bio-digester” in its dining hall. The machine, about the size of an office desk, exposes waste food to enzymes that break the food down to gray water. The gray water goes down the drain and into the wastewater system.

Giving the entire sustainability initiative a high profile is the goal of Rodney Hudson, director of auxiliary services at the university. Hudson has the type of passion for the efforts, from solar energy to recycling to individuals’ lifestyles, that can help build enthusiasm and knowledge in others
As he told The Panther, Claflin’s student newspaper:

“Sustainability touches everything we do. We’re setting an example on college campuses on how we should conduct ourselves in other places of the world. Sustainability is not just putting a can in the garbage. Sustainability is our environment changing drastically, because of things that we have done. Let’s implement a culture that sustains itself. It is one of those causes where you can make a difference.”

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