DHEC has been directed to develop regulations and guidance on the end-of-life management of solar panels and batteries as well as the decommission of solar projects in excess of 13 acres. The requirements are outlined in Proviso 34.62 of the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 General Appropriations Bill and Act No. 119 effective January 27, 2022.
Since 2021, DHEC has been actively engaging with a diverse group of stakeholders to obtain information and recommendations on these issues. To meet the obligations of Proviso 34.62, DHEC submitted a final report to the legislature on June 30, 2022, reporting the activities and recommendations of the solar energy workgroup. This report can be viewed here.
The solar panel stakeholder group continued to meet throughout 2022 and continues in 2023 to develop a regulation. To meet these obligations and continue regulation development, DHEC issued a new Notice of Drafting on March 24, 2023. No comments were received concerning the new Notice of Drafting. A Notice of Proposed Regulation was issued to the State Register on June 23, 2023. The Department received and cautiously honored reasonable comments to the Notice of Proposed Regulation. This updated draft was then presented to the Board at the September 7, 2023 public hearing as the Notice of Final Regulation. On September 8, 2023, the Notice of Final Regulation was filed with the State Register. In January of 2024, the Notice of Final Regulation will be submitted on the first day of legislative session.
Solar energy provides renewable power and provides thousands of jobs in South Carolina. A megawatt (MW) is a unit of power equal to 1 million watts. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, South Carolina has more than 1,800 MW of installed Solar Photovoltaic Modules (Solar PV modules also known as solar panels). The state is projected to install another 1,300 solar panels in the next five years.
There are, however, challenges. Solar panels must be managed appropriately at the end of their lifecycle. State and local officials are dealing with how to oversee decommissioning of large-scale projects. Concerns have been raised with the potential for environmental impacts of hazardous components sometimes found in solar panels. These and other issues were discussed as part of the stakeholder process.
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