NORTH CHARLESTON - Boeing Co. announced Tuesday that the roof of its new 787 jet assembly plant will be covered with solar panels and its South Carolina operation will be powered entirely with renewable energy.
South Carolina Electric & Gas will install and maintain the thin panels that will cover the space of about eight football fields atop the massive assembly building.
The panels will provide up to 2.6 megawatts of electrical power for the site - enough to power about 250 homes.
It will be the largest solar installation by generating capacity in the Southeast and the sixth-largest in the nation, the company said.
"This will be a 100 percent renewable energy site and it's the first site we have in the world that is making that commitment," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Kevin Marsh, the president of SCE&G, said the company is installing and maintaining more than 18,000 solar panels on the roof of the assembly building, an area of about 10 acres.
SCE&G will supplement the solar energy with power from its system, coupled with renewable energy certificates, to meet Boeing's energy requirements. Solar projects generate credits that are sold at auction to help utilities meet their renewable energy goals.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Boeing's decision to use solar power will be noted nationwide.
"The fact that Boeing would lead the way is going to make it easier for other businesses in South Carolina and in the county to follow," he said.
"What this shows us is that Boeing is going to do everything just a little bit better," said fellow U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint. "South Carolina wants to do everything just a little bit better and I think we're going to see from this work force is it's a little bit better and is going to be the best in the world."
A group of about 30 Boeing workers were on hand for the announcement. As the officials spoke, C-17s built by Boeing took off from the nearby Charleston Air Force Base and construction crews continued work nearby on the 787 assembly plant.
Jack Jones, vice president and general manager for Boeing South Carolina, said the new assembly plant should be operational in July. The first 787 built there is expected to take off about a year from now.
The $750 million assembly plant represents the largest industrial investment in South Carolina history.