Friday’s editorial celebrates a number of recent steps forward in powering our region through alternative energy:
It feels almost unnecessary to reinforce the importance of preserving our environment to coastal residents. The livelihoods of those on the coast have been tied to the natural world for centuries and will continue to be long after today’s Earth Day has passed.
The recent census numbers attest to the continuing rapid expansion of our region, with many newcomers no doubt drawn by the natural beauty of our beaches and waterways. As we burst our historical bounds, it’s important we do it deliberately and smartly, and that we don’t squander the natural resources we steward.
The region’s ties to the land go back to the earliest European settlers in the region, who harvested timber and farmed indigo and rice and tobacco. It stretches even farther back to the American Indians, who traveled and hunted in the coastal forests for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.
Today, farming and logging industries continue, but our economy relies more heavily on tourism, which requires a strong commitment to preserving the beauty of our beach. Would tourists come year after year if we had all of these hotels and shows and shops, but no beach? Perhaps – Branson made it work, after all – but we wouldn’t like to take the chance.
Because of our area’s strong incentive for preservation, it’s fitting that Santee Cooper decided to install the state’s largest solar power installation in Myrtle Beach this week. The solar station, made up of 1,325 panels at the utility’s facility on Mr. Joe White Avenue, increases the state’s solar power generation by 35 percent. The station will generate enough power to supply 30 households, no small feat, but the fact that power for 30 homes is enough to so drastically increase the state’s solar capacity drives home the fact that the industry is still very much in the early stages of growth. We look forward to the day that power for 30 homes is merely a footnote in the state’s renewable energy network.
Myrtle Beach’s solar station was only one of a series of recent promising steps toward alternative energy in our cities and state. A day after Santee Cooper brought the Myrtle Beach station online, Boeing raised the stakes for South Carolina solar power, announcing it would install a system eight times as large as the one in Myrtle Beach at its new facility in North Charleston, scheduled for completion sometime in September.
We’ve also noted with pleasure the ongoing efforts of North Myrtle Beach to lead the way in wind energy and create a new cluster of alternative energy businesses on the Strand. In that vein, we continue to hold high hopes for the idea of an offshore wind farm based near Winyah Bay in Georgetown County.
Santee Cooper has been studying the possibility for a couple of years, and has so far determined through a number of buoys that there’s a good chance the wind blows steadily and strongly enough to make the idea feasible. Utility spokeswoman Mollie Gore said that the next step is to construct an offshore anemometer to measure the wind at a higher altitude than the buoys. Any actual power generation is millions of dollars and years away, but we’re optimistic about the possibilities such an industry could open up for Georgetown and its port.
Residents of the Grand Strand have been promoting our environment as one of the region’s best attributes for decades. A 1935 newsletter, “Myrtle Beach, Today and Tomorrow,” sought to lure visitors by describing the area’s healthful environment and setting, “as prescribed by your physician as being beneficial to the prevention and cure of certain diseases.”
Seventy-five years later, we’re pleased to see the drive is still strong to maintain the Strand’s natural beauty and health.