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South Carolina Solar Maps Pave Way To Other Regions

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October 25
6:00 AM 2016

As an undergraduate research project, Industrial Engineering major Amanda Farthing spearheaded the said research and is working on it for two years.

Amanda Farthing and the research team at Clemson University's Center for Geospatial Technologies has formulated maps that will determine which lands in South Carolina would be the most appropriate in handling the generation of solar energy at utility scale. One map displays the lands which are suitable for five-megawatt developments while one map shows lands which can only facilitate one-megawatt developments.

"The big takeaway is that solar presents a great opportunity in South Carolina and that it can be developed in a way that considers both environmental and social preferences," said Farthing.

Said research could contribute to South Carolina's continuous growth in generating solar energy, and at the same time minimize the conflicts that could arise over the land use and ownership. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the installed solar capacity in the state increased 303 percent during the past year.

There are appropriate lands for both one- and five- megawatt developments which are scattered across the state. However, the maximum concentration is located in a swath that runs from the North Carolina state line around Marlboro, Drilon and Horry counties to the area of Lake Marion.

Farthing's co-author Michael Carbajales-Dale said, "From this initial study, we've seen there are plenty of suitable land areas for the development of solar energy. Regardless of policy, it's very physically feasible."

According to Farthing, the study applies only to utility-scale solar power. This research was published by the journal Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality.

Farthing furthered that she focused on South Carolina for her map study, but the model their team created could perform the same analysis for other states.

Clemson University's research team ranked South Carolina's lands on a scale from 0-100, with the higher numbers more suitable for development while the available solar resource was calculated for lands with values of at least 50, 70 and 90.

The team had discovered that about 1,256 square miles, or 4.2 percent of state land area, had a suitability rate of at least 70 for five-megawatt developments.

Carbajales-Dale said it is inimitable for students to have their research published as undergraduates.

"Amanda came to me in her second year and said, 'I want to work on a project, and I want to make it specific to South Carolina. I want to use my skills to benefit people here,'' Carbajales-Dale said.

"Ever since we've been working together, she has performed amazingly, even with all her other commitments."

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