(download high-res version)
The Town of Saluda received a Municipal Achievement Award for its Solar Saluda project. Officials accepted the award during the Municipal Association of South Carolina's Annual Meeting on July 22. The city won in the 1,001 – 5,000 population category. Thirty-two cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.
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 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.
"Other cities and towns can analyze the Saluda Solar project to determine if they should construct a similar project to lower costs," said Miriam Hair, executive director for the Municipal Association.
These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. More information and a video about the project are available on the Association's website www.masc.sc (keyword: Achievement Awards).
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.