Touring a different kind of farm for Colleton’s Stewardship Week | News | The Press and Standard

by | April 29, 2016 5:00 am

Last Updated: April 27, 2016 at 11:54 am

A trip to a different type of forest highlighted Colleton Soil and Water Conservation District’s Stewardship Week.
“We All Need Trees” was the theme for the special week. When it came time for the annual tour, the Rev. Gerald Mabry took a different path.
Mabry contacted Coastal Electric Cooperative Inc. Energy Management Specialist Tim Robertson to organize a tour of the Colleton Solar Farm.
Mabry said, “The solar farm works as trees do to help the environment. Our trees need sunlight to be able to grow and produce.”
“A solar forest also uses sunlight to make electricity to keep our environment cleaner,” Mabry explained.
Robertson said that the Colleton Solar Farm was a joint project between South Carolina’s electric cooperatives, Santee Cooper and TIG Sun Energy.
It is a first-of-its kind collaboration designed to test the true potential for solar energy in South Carolina.
The solar array consists of 10,010 photovoltaic panels. Forty percent use single-axis tracking technology to follow the sun across the sky. This action maximizes the production of solar energy. Though more expensive to install initially, the “levelized cost of energy” shows tracking panels at the Colleton Solar Farm were nine percent less per kilowatt-hour (kWh) than fixed panels.
The solar complex sits on a 15-acres field adjacent to Interstate 95 near Walterboro.
It was completed ahead of schedule on Dec. 20, 2013. In its first year through December 20, 2014, the site generated 4,687 megawatt-hours (MWh), which was five percent more than expected the first year.
The three-megawatt complex provides enough energy to power more than 300 homes.
Robertson said that solar technology continues to develop and in the future, solar energy will become more affordable to homeowners.
Mabry and the Conservation District also promoted the use of stewardship with resource materials in area churches.
No matter where someone lives — whether in the city or in rural areas — trees, forests, and open space play an important role in daily lives.
Every day, everyone uses a diverse array of tree products, from the houses where we live, to the paper we use, to the food we eat, Mabry said.
Trees provide economic opportunities as well as many indirect benefits, such as clean air and water. Trees and open space also offer invaluable recreational opportunities, providing a healthy sense of well being.
Life without trees and open space would be unimaginable. But as the population grows, everyone must take care to sustain and manage natural resources to meet current and future needs. It is important to remember that trees are a renewable natural resource.
The sun is also another renewable natural resource, probably the most important source of renewable energy available today.
Many are seeking to utilize solar radiation directly by converting it into useful electricity.

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