It’s official – a new day has dawned at Berkeley Electric as the Strawberry Community Solar garden is now online and producing its first renewable energy kilowatts.
President and CEO Mike Fuller and representatives from Alder Energy and Central Electric Cooperative attended a small dedication ceremony in December to officially commission the solar farm. The 120-kW ground-mounted solar array, located at the co-op’s Strawberry Substation in Moncks Corner, is the first phase of the Community Solar program which allows members to benefit from solar energy by leasing panels without having to install them on their property. The second phase of the project will be the construction of canopy-mounted solar panels on covered parking at the co-op’s Awendaw office capable of generating an additional 80-kW. The combined 200-kW output will be able to power the equivalent of 25 homes per year. Both phases are already fully subscribed with 46 members participating.
The Strawberry site is also a pilot program for testing two Tesla battery packs designed to store 464 kWh or about 4 hours of solar PV production. This is a separate project from the solar farm with the battery packs being charged largely at night during off-peak hours when electricity prices are the lowest.
The stored energy will then be discharged during periods of peak energy use to help reduce demand costs for all members. The pilot program is being conducted by the co-op’s statewide partner, Central Electric Power Cooperative in Columbia.
This is not the first foray into renewable energy for Berkeley Electric Cooperative. The co-op offers a renewable energy rider for member installing rooftop solar with 830 members participating producing twice the solar energy than the entire Colleton Solar Farm in Walterboro, which has more than 10,000 panels.
Additionally, the co-op partners with Santee Cooper’s Green Power program where members sponsor renewable energy produced by landfill gas, as well as the Solar Schools program, which provides demonstration solar panels to local schools so students can learn about the benefits and limitations of solar energy.