At York Electric Cooperative, we’ve long taken an “all of the above” position when it comes to power generation. We recognize that, as the electricity industry is presently structured, there are three primary means of producing base-load power—coal, nuclear, and natural gas.
Renewables also play a part in the energy mix. The best-established form of renewables is hydro-power. During the last couple of decades, wind, solar and biomass have also gained prominence.
Recently, Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility that generates most of the electricity distributed by independent co-ops such as York Electric, announced plans to purchase the output from a three-megawatt solar farm in Colleton County, owned by T.I.G. Sun Energy. A total of 10,000 solar panels are being erected there. They will provide a means for Santee Cooper and South Carolina’s 20 electric cooperatives to analyze the reliability and cost-effectiveness of this form of energy production. This pilot project is expected to come on line early this year.
Both solar and wind have some inherent technical disadvantages. Essentially, the wind doesn’t blow, nor does the sun shine, all the time. This intermittency requires that backup base-load generators—usually fueled by natural gas—be poised to operate in the event that these renewables are not performing.
Because of their intermittent operation, the best apparent prospect for wind and solar to make a substantial contribution to electricity generation would be the development of a large and effective storage battery. Such a battery could store power generated when wind and solar units are operating. This stored energy could then be used during those peak-demand hours when the renewable units would typically be dormant.
It’s likely to be a slow march until the time a suitable storage battery can be perfected. In the interim, the cooperatives and Santee Cooper will be learning all we can about solar energy and the possibilities it might hold.
One outcome we’ll take great pains to avoid: Our members won’t be expected to subsidize this or any other type of energy production. Both solar and wind must represent viable alternatives in order for York Electric to embrace them. Our hope is that advances in technology will bring that to pass.
As the New Year begins, York Electric’s focus continues to be on delivering safe, reliable service. The York Electric family of employees wishes you a happy and safe New Year and eagerly looks forward to being of service to you. We’re always looking out for you!
President and Chief Executive Officer