German Company Brings Jobs, Solar Power to County

Summerville, South Carolina

December 21, 2010 - IMO's solar tracker may seem small compared to the sun, but standing 53 feet tall with 1,614 square feet of solar panels, it's the biggest of its kind in South Carolina.

The tracker's flat surface sits on a pillar and is programmed to follow the sun's trajectory from sunrise to sunset. The tracking ability increases its efficiency by 30 percent.

"All it needs is the sun," IMO USA Corp. CEO Ruediger Unverzagt said.

IMO opened its Dorchester County warehouse and offices less than a year ago and has created 20 jobs. Next year they plan to hire 50 more people, according to Unverzagt.

A portion of South Carolina's American Reinvestment and Recovery Act money was used to bring IMO to the state.

The German company unveiled its solar power tracker and solar-powered street lamps to the public on Dec. 14.

About 100 people attended the ceremony at IMO's American headquarters, 101 Innovation Drive in McQueen Park, Summerville. Elected officials and business leaders praised IMO.

The tracker produces 42,000 kilowatt hours each year, enough to power four homes. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the tracker's environmental equivalent is that of planting 6,700 trees or driving 106,000 fewer miles a year, according to IMO.

The solar tracker is used to power 40 percent of IMO's operations in Dorchester County, including offices and a warehouse where IMO's 920 light series slewing ring is currently made, according to IMO spokesperson English Burton.

The 920 light series is used in small construction machinery, small cranes, packaging and labeling equipment, welding equipment, Burton said.

The recently installed solar tracker that sits between the street and IMO's parking lot is a prototype made in Germany. The company expects to make solar products in Dorchester County in the near future, Burton said.

IMO makes solar trackers in several sizes costing anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000. Burton said price varies by size and whether it has a single or dual axis.

Although Germany gets about the same amount of sunlight as Alaska, it produces more solar energy than any other country, Unverzagt said.

When German energy prices soared, resources had to be restructured and people adapted, he said. It is only a matter of time before energy prices soar in South Carolina and the United States, Unverzagt said.

"IMO is a global company with the of option of locating anywhere in the world," said Sean Bennett, Charleston Regional Development Alliance Chairman. "The fact that you've chosen to expand here validates our position as a true international location."

"IMO is proud to be here and bring some of these (energy) jobs to South Carolina," Unverzagt said.

He said IMO has two main goals: increasing renewable energy resources in the United States and continuing to create jobs that improve the economy.

"It is evident that the production of solar power is extremely versatile as well as efficient," Unverzagt said. "It requires little maintenance and produces no emissions or toxic waste."

Klaus Pless, VP of IMO USA solar sales, said the solar energy absorbed by Earth's atmosphere in an hour is more energy than the world uses in a year.

"In our state we have no conventional indigenous energy resources," Director of the S.C. Energy Office Ashlie Lancaster said. "We have no coal, no uranium, no petroleum. To meet our energy needs we're having to import those resources – exporting our jobs and our money instead of keeping those things right here at home."

Lancaster said IMO will help grow an indigenous energy economy the state has not seen before and will provide jobs and reduce dependency on foreign oil.

"Our energy needs are going to continue to grow," Sen. Paul Campbell said. "Solar is going to be a big player in South Carolina and the world . . . Solar creates jobs. It provides income, it provides opportunity for South Carolinians and it does apply to our energy needs for the future."

Bob Long, General Manager of SCANA (South Carolina Electric & Gas), said the three things cutomers want most is power restored after emergency outages, reliable planning and energy for the future.

Long, also chair of the Palmetto Clean Energy Board, said more than 60 percent of customers want green, renewable energy.

IMO's solar power street lamps use LED lights that have a life expectancy of 10 years. The lamps will light even if the sun doesn't shine for three days, according to Pless. There are three solar street lamps at IMO's Dorchester County location.

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