May 15, 2009
Santee Cooper and the Center for Hydrogen Research dedicated a 20-kilowatt solar panel array today that advances hydrogen generation from renewable energy sources. Specifically, the array will enable the CHR to research applications of hydrogen as a storage solution for solar energy. The photovoltaic array has been installed in two locations, on the roof of the CHR connected to the Education, Training and Development Laboratory and in a ground-level solar park that will give access to school groups and other interested parties. The roof hosts a 14-kW set of panels, and the solar park holds the remaining 6 kW. “As a public power company, Santee Cooper’s responsibility is to provide affordable, reliable electricity that is protective of our environment,” said Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper president and chief executive officer. “The Center for Hydrogen Research will be an excellent catalyst for developing initiatives that can benefit electric utilities and their customers. This project has the potential to maximize an already-growing hydrogen economy in South Carolina, and that’s a goal we can all get behind. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this endeavor.” Santee Cooper donated $230,000 to the Center for Hydrogen Research to purchase the array and help establish an onsite and Internet-based education and research system. Funding was provided through Santee Cooper’s Green Power program, which the state’s 20 electric cooperatives — including Aiken Electric Cooperative — support and promote. Santee Cooper is the wholesale power generator for South Carolina’s electric cooperatives, including Aiken Electric. One obstacle to the use of solar energy is difficulty storing the energy so that it can be utilized when the sun isn’t shining. Hydrogen can be stored and transported, and so is a recognized energy storage solution that has applications for powering vehicles or electrical generation. Most hydrogen today comes from natural gas. Renewable energy-sourced hydrogen is a fast-growing research and development field across the country. The photovoltaic array converts sunlight into electricity, which then produces hydrogen through electrolyzing water. Hydrogen can be converted back to electricity using fuel cells or used to power hydrogen-fueled vehicles. “We are very appreciative of the grant from Santee Cooper which enabled the CHR to begin this work on solar power,” said Fred Humes, director of the Aiken Economic Development Partnership and the CHR. “Hydrogen is an excellent storage mechanism for solar and other renewable energy sources. As we look at the technologies of the future, hydrogen will play a major role. We already have fuel cell forklifts operating on a daily basis in Aiken County. This solar-to-hydrogen technology may well give our industries an independent source of hydrogen to fuel their forklifts, give NetZero homes a way to store excess energy generated by their solar panels, and one day could lead to independent hydrogen fueling stations for vehicles.” The Education, Training and Development (ET&D) Laboratory at the Center for Hydrogen Research is a fully functional 1,100-square-foot hydrogen research, development and demonstration laboratory module. The primary purpose of the ET&D laboratory is to house a regenerative fuel cell backup power system with features to support education and outreach, worker training and equipment and systems development. Among many other research and outreach functions, the ET&D laboratory is being used by Aiken Technical College in their classroom curriculum. Students will receive “hands-on” training at the ET&D laboratory. Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young said, “We are fortunate to have a technology base in Aiken County that we can leverage into new jobs and industries for the future. Aiken County has the opportunity to lead the way in this new technology and will not stand by the roadside as others capitalize on hydrogen and fuel cell technology. This is evidenced by Aiken County Council’s foresight to develop the Savannah River Research Campus and the Center for Hydrogen Research.” As mentioned, funding for the solar array came from Santee Cooper’s Green Power program. Santee Cooper was the first utility in South Carolina to generate and sell renewable Green Power, beginning in 2001 at the Horry County Landfill Generating Station. Today it operates four landfill generating stations, which use naturally occurring methane gas as their fuel source, and one additional solar installation on the campus of Coastal Carolina University. Customers of Santee Cooper and the state’s 20 electric cooperatives, including Aiken Electric, can purchase Green Power in blocks of 100- kW hours for $3 through their monthly bills. Aiken Electric Cooperative customers are a significant contributor to the Green Power program. Additionally, customers of other utilities can participate through the Santee Cooper Green Power Tag program. Information is available onwww.santeecooper.com. A full 100 percent of the money raised through the Green Power program is reinvested in new or expanded renewable energy projects located in South Carolina, such as the PV array dedicated today. The 20-kW solar array is Santee Cooper’s largest solar installation to date. Gary Stooksbury, chief executive officer of Aiken Electric Cooperative, noted that the project is supported by people who are paying a premium for renewable energy. “Sales of Santee Coopergenerated Green Power, supported by the electric cooperatives, are used to enhance and expand renewable programs in South Carolina. Aiken Electric Cooperative is pleased that our memberowners recognize not only the value of sustainable energy, but also the unique position of the Aiken area to develop potential new industries.” Aiken Electric, a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, is a customer-owned, nonprofit electric utility currently serving more than 44,000 customers in a nine county area in South Carolina. Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility and the state’s largest power producer, supplying electricity to more than 163,000 retail customers in Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties, as well as to 30 large industrial facilities, the cities of Bamberg and Georgetown, and the Charleston Air Force Base. Santee Cooper also generates the power distributed by the state’s 20 electric cooperatives to more than 700,000 customers in all 46 counties. Approximately 2 million South Carolinians receive their power directly or indirectly from Santee Cooper. The utility also provides water to 137,000 consumers in Berkeley and Dorchester counties, and the town of Santee. For more information, visitwww.santeecooper.com. For information on how Santee Cooper lives green and how you can go green, visit www.santeecoopergreen.com.