MTU America celebrates new solar panel field in Graniteville

August 10, 2017

Instead of cutting a ribbon, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster flipped a switch Wednesday morning as MTU America celebrated the recent completion of its new solar panel field that has a peak output of 1 megawatt of power.

“There you go,” McMaster declared while the audience underneath a big tent cheered and clapped.

Afterward, MTU America’s director of operations, Joerg Klisch directed everybody’s attention to a display on a big-screen monitor next to the stage.

It showed the field was continuing to do its job even though thick clouds covered the sun and rain was falling.

“You can see, even under these conditions, the system is producing about 150 kilowatts at this point in time,” Klisch said.

MTU America manufactures diesel engines and components.

“Who would have thought that an engine builder would embrace the sun as a power source? But this is exactly what we are doing,” Klisch said. “We are anxious to push the boundaries of technology and see what is possible.”

To create the solar panel field, MTU America collaborated with Sol America, SCE&G, the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Key Equipment Finance and Aiken County.

McMaster praised them all for working together and being willing to break new ground in the generation and transmission of energy.

“The kind of innovation reflected here with this solar power, that’s what is going to take us into new dimensions in South Carolina,” McMaster said. “We are on the way up, and if we don’t mess it up with high taxes and heavy regulations, the future here is incomparable to anything else in the rest of the country. I congratulate all the leadership in Aiken County, this company and all those involved for making great decisions to produce wealth, prosperity and happiness.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., also spoke. While congratulating MTU America on its new venture, he thanked the company for providing job and apprenticeship opportunities for residents of Aiken County and the surrounding area.

The solar panel field covers approximately 7 acres and is located next to MTU America on land leased from Aiken County. There are 4,242 solar panels, and the system is tied directly to SCE&G’s grid.

MTU America receives 14 cents for each kilowatt hour of energy the solar panel field supplies to the grid.

“After approximately 18 months of developing the project, the project documents were signed,” Klisch said. “Construction began on March 27, 2017, with the clearing of the trees.”

After the ceremony, Dan Kaminski, senior manager of purchasing for MTU America, provided more details about the solar power project.

“The system cost approximately $1.9 million,” he said. “We, at MTU, put up very little cash up front because it is leased through Key Equipment Finance. The system produces enough electricity so that under the program, it pays for itself and sends us a check every month. We have an actual bill credit on top of paying off the lease.”

Looking to the future, Kaminski said: “Under the current program with SCE&G, it (MTU America’s system) is feeding SCE&G’s grid. After 10 years, we can continue feeding the grid, at a wholesale rate, or we can bring it into our own grid. We’ll be putting it on our on grid because it will offset our peak demand, which is for air conditioning on hot, sunny days when the solar field is doing its thing. It’s a perfect match.”

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