By Ron Bridgeman
A change in state law could allow solar “farms” to bloom in Georgia, bringing new jobs and tax revenue to rural areas.
That is the idea, at least, behind a bill introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives by Rep. Rusty Kidd, I-Milledgeville, a week before the legislature adjourned for the year.
Kidd said Tuesday that he expects the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommun-ications Committee will hold hearings on the legislation, maybe “in the next six to eight weeks.”
He said he has talked with Rep. Don Parsons, chairman of the committee, and will do so again in the near future.
Several companies have formed in Georgia to develop electricity from solar power – encouraged by national surveys that rank the state high in potential for solar because of abundant sunshine here.
The Public Service Commission adopted a resolution in November, asking the legislature to consider laws that would promote the development of solar power statewide.
Three of the commissioners – Tim Echols, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald and Doug Everett – joined Kidd at a news conference March 28 and supported the idea of changes in the law to assist in solar development.
Kidd said the bill “would direct the PSC to work on these projects and so forth with gusto and enthusiasm.”
He added that changes in the law are needed to require Georgia Power to cooperate.
“Georgia Power is going to give lip service, but they really don’t want it, so we’ve basically got to force it down Georgia Power’s throat,” Kidd said.
At least four companies have talked with officials in Putnam County about different plans for generating solar power in the county. One, Brewer Renewable Energy, has proposed an 80-acre solar farm near the intersection of New Phoenix and Old Phoenix roads.
The most ambitious company may be Georgia Solar Utilities, headed by Robert Green of Macon.
That firm had options on land near the Plant Branch facility and proposed an 80 megawatt solar farm on the property.
Green said late in 2012 that the company let the options expire because Georgia Power declined to participate with Georgia Solar.
Green has said the state law should be changed, and his company proposed a solar utility that would have the same authority as Georgia Power to generate power – but only solar power. Under that proposal, Georgia Power would be required to allow use of its transmission lines to carry power from Georgia Solar.
That proposal was rejected by the PSC, and three of the commissioners said it would require a change in state law.
Kidd said Tuesday his legislation would make the changes that Green advocates.
Kidd’s bill would create a structure that would allow Green’s company to sell solar power through Georgia Power and “authorize the Public Service Commission to establish a rural community solar initiative and oversee and manage a responsible expansion of solar energy in this state.”