Sunshine generating new investments in Spartanburg County
By Bob Montgomery (Staff Writer)
Companies are seeing Spartanburg County in a new light — one that shines brightly.
A California-based company, Renewable Properties, recently announced a $22.7 million investment in seven new solar facilities throughout the county.
The small-scale solar farms will generate renewable energy for Duke Energy, which in turn provides electricity to its customers in the western Carolinas.
Meanwhile, a Spartanburg-based company is also moving forward with small-scale, 2-megawatt solar projects on 16 of its sites in Spartanburg County, including the Flatwood Industrial Park.
Johnson Development Associates is working with Duke Energy to connect to the grid, said Mark Wesson, president of Johnson’s Natural Resources Division.
Wesson said the company is also planning solar farms elsewhere on its land holdings in South Carolina, looking to provide clean energy to SCE&G and Santee Cooper as well as Duke.
“It will be putting energy on the grid,” Wesson said. “It will bring renewable, green energy to Duke’s grid locally. The point of it all is to make South Carolina cleaner, energy-wise.”
He said the investment in Spartanburg County will be roughly $45 million for all 16 sites.
Wesson said Duke Energy solicited bids for projects totaling 680 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity.
Each facility should be between 1 and 80 megawatts and capable of being placed in service before Jan. 1, 2021, according to the utility.
Duke Energy already has more than 2,500 megawatts of solar capacity connected to its grid. One megawatt equals one million watts, or 1,000 kilowatts, roughly enough electricity for the instantaneous demand of 750 to 1,000 homes at once, according to the California Energy Commission.
“The competitive bidding process will lead to better prices for solar energy for our customers,” David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president, said in a statement. “It will also improve geographic distribution of projects around the Carolinas (that) promote reliability.”
Renewable Properties plans to build two solar farms on Ballenger Road in Spartanburg School District 1; two on Padgett and Wyatt roads in School District 3; two in School District 4 on New Bethel Road; and one on Old Greenville Road in School District 6. The company is seeking a reduced property tax rate from Spartanburg County Council.
Although the farms will not create jobs, County Councilman David Britt said the tax revenues on those properties will bring more revenue to the school districts.
Some of the properties have been generating less than $100 a year in tax revenue. Once the solar farms are operating, that should increase to about $8,000 per site.
In addition, the property owner where the sites are located will receive a payment from Renewable Properties, he said.
Britt said he was initially concerned that the solar farms would be built on prime farmland that could better be developed industrially or commercially, which would generate more tax dollars and jobs.
But the locations Renewable Properties plans to use are not ideal for other types of development, he said.
Britt said by supporting solar power, it sends a positive image to progressive companies considering a move to Spartanburg County.
He said before Keurig Green Mountain announced plans to construct a new, state-of-the-art coffee roasting and packaging facility in Spartanburg County with $350 million in capital investment and 500 new jobs, the company asked whether the county supported green energy.
″(Solar power) makes a good statement about us being a green county and concerned about using alternative energy sources,” Britt said.
Wesson added, “It makes good business sense.”