The Town of Saluda was recognized by the Municipal Association of South Carolina at its 2017 Annual Meeting for their investment in renewable energy.
Town of Saluda officials knew electric rates would keep going up, so they decided to undergo an energy audit and take control of their future power bills by installing solar panels. In fact, the town installed enough panels to completely offset energy consumption at Town Hall.
Officials got started on the project by first seeking guidance from the S.C. Energy Office. Through the Energy Office, the town received a ConserFund loan to pay for the project. This loan allowed the town to borrow at a very low interest rate to install the panels and to retrofit Town Hall with energy-efficient light bulbs. The town also worked closely with SCE&G and the company's renewable energy team.
The results have been rewarding. The town, one of the first municipalities in South Carolina to install solar panels, now receives a credit on each power bill for the energy it puts back on the power grid.
At the end of the year, the power company sends the town a check for any power it generated in excess of what it consumed. The town has a 10-year contract to sell power generated at Saluda Town Hall to SCE&G. But since the project will pay for itself after 3 ½ years, town officials expect to be making money for 6 ½ years.
Looking to the future, Saluda officials plan to monitor funds generated by the project and decide whether to install additional solar panels at the police department and other town facilities.
Several businesses in Saluda are watching the town's solar success to see if they, too, should install solar panels. And town officials are working with schools to teach students about the benefits of alternative energy.