Will Competition Drive the Development of Large-Scale Solar Power in Georgia?


Source: http://www.ryantaylorarchitects.com/

Tom Baxter’s recent article in the SaportaReport suggests that Georgia Power has reversed course on solar power after Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. submitted a petition to the Georgia PSC to sell 80-megawatts of solar power. It seems that it just takes the threat of competition to steer large markets and competition is starting to emerge as the cost of renewable sources like solar continue to drop.

The Georgia Public Service Commission’s (PSC) mission is “to exercise its authority and influence to ensure that consumers receive safe, reliable and reasonably priced telecommunications, electric and natural gas services from financially viable and technically competent companies.” As a result, the PSC regulates the state’s largest electricity provider: Georgia Power.

In 2001, Sentate Bill 93 was signed into Georgia law. It’s a five-page bill that notes the importance of enhancing “the continued diversification of the energy resources used in Georgia”. In effect, it creates “green pricing” so consumers can agree to pay a premium for power from renewable energy technologies. The premiums were intended as an investment in renewable energy while it was still more expensive than traditional energy sources like coal-fired power plants. That created an opportunity for Georgia Power to invest in renewable energy sources like solar and pass the additional costs to consumers who opted-into the program.

The proposal for the Georgia Solar Utilities, Inc. (GaSU) solar power plant is significant. By using  the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) numbers on the electricity used by an average American house, we figured an 80-megawatt solar plant can power approximately 9,850 houses when operating at its peak potential. To give you some sense of scale for the proposed plant,GreenTech Media reports only two of the top ten existing solar plants in the United States can generate more than 60 megawatts, both are in Arizona – GaSu’s plant would be the third largest in the US.

None of the top ten solar plants are in the southeastern United States even though there’s tremendous potential for solar energyto help off-set peak loads. The closest significant plant on the list is a 34MW facility in Texas.