A newly formed independent solar energy coalition has proposed a 90-megawatt solar energy venture, targeted at replacing two coal-fired power plants on the cusp of retirement near Milledgeville, Ga. Today Steve Oppenheimer, candidate for the Public Service Commission, voiced his support of such a proposal.
“Any project that would help diversify and strengthen Georgia’s energy portfolio, lower consumers power bills and create the twenty-first century jobs we need, is one I can eagerly get behind,” Oppenheimer said. “I commend the innovation and boldness in working to keep power rates low, while further expanding our energy portfolio from a measly three percent clean energy, something incumbent Commissioner Chuck Eaton has failed to do during his time in office.”
Oppenheimer applauds the solar utility for the proposal, but says more progress must continue being made to ensure Georgia has a secure energy future.
The $320 million project has already gained significant traction, but under the current law enforced by the PSC, Georgia Solar Utilities is prohibited from competing with Georgia Power or any other utility in the state.
Steve Oppenheimer is a former small business owner, the proud father of three adult sons, and a long-time community activist focused on energy and national security. Steve lives in Sandy Springs, GA. www.steveforgeorgia.com
Welcome to the 21st century. A Georgia start-up company plans to rival Georgia Power in generating utility level energy from the sun.
The Georgia Public Service Commission has heard from Georgia Solar Utilities, asking for approval to get started on a solar field near Milledgeville to generate 80 megawatts, and growing to 500 megawatts.
But that's just for starters. Georgia Solar Utilities is ready to produce two thousand megawatts. The new reactors at Plant Vogtle will be at 22-hundred megawatts.
At this point, Georgia Power controls utility level solar power in the state. It might take a change in state law to allow for some solar competition.
By Johnathan Shapiro
A company with an ambitious plan to build a large solar farm in central Georgia is now petitioning to become the state’s first regulated solar utility.
Macon-based Georgia Solar Utilities wants to be allowed to provide up to two gigawatts of electricity, or 5 percent of the state’s total demand.
Two of five members of the Public Service Commission joined CEO Robert Green at a press conference to announce the plan. Green said by taking advantage of cheaper equipment and low financing rates, ratepayers could save billions by using solar on a large scale.
“When you can take out the cost of coal, you remove the cost of burning that coal, and you remove the environmental externalities of it, that’s a lot of money, as opposed to a bunch of solar panels sitting on a farm churning out electricity,” said Green.
Earlier this summer, Green’s company proposed building a huge solar farm near Macon and selling the electricity to Georgia Power, the state’s regulated electricity provider. Georgia Power declined, saying it wasn’t in the best interest of ratepayers.
Green now wants to directly compete with Georgia Power. He argues the electric provider hasn’t done enough to capitalize on the state’s immense solar capacity.
“Georgia Power has had a long time to decide to go and make meaningful actions towards solar. It just hasn’t happened. And that’s what we’re after.”
Green’s company faces considerable hurdles.
Empowered by a 1973 state law, Georgia Power controls all large-scale solar development in the state. Any change to that would likely require both regulatory and legislative action.
While declining to comment on the legal aspects of Georgia Solar’s filing, Georgia Power spokesman Mark Williams said his company will continue to responsibly develop solar options for its customers.
“We don’t want to do anything that is going to cause rates to go up for our customers but if it is something that is cost-effective and does make sense, we’re very interested in doing that.”
Georgia Power is expected to present to state regulators a new plan to expand its solar footprint next week.
A new Macon-based solar power company filed an application with the state of Georgia Thursday for authority to generate solar energy on a utility scale.
If approved by the state Public Service Commission, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. plans to produce up to 2 gigawatts of electricity by 2016, almost as much generating capacity as Georgia Power’s planned 2,200-megawatt expansion of nuclear Plant Vogtle.
As a “beginning point” toward that goal, the company is seeking up to 500 megawatts in solar generating capacity, starting with an 80-megawatt solar power plant near Milledgeville, Ga., according to the application.
Recent advances in solar technology have brought down the costs of solar energy, Robert Green, CEO of Georgia Solar Utilities, said during a news conference after the filing of the company’s application. Tighter government regulation of carbon emissions from burning coal also are making solar more competitive, he said.
“So long as we can compete with existing utilities, ratepayers can begin to receive a dividend in rate reduction,” Green said.
Thus far, Georgia Power has enjoyed complete control of utility-scale solar development power in the state.
Indeed, a 1973 state law gives the Atlanta-based utility exclusive rights to existing customers.
Green said Georgia Solar Utilities has not yet determined whether it will need to seek a change in that law from the General Assembly in order to do business in Georgia.
Two of the five members of the PSC spoke during Thursday’s news conference in support of taking a more aggressive stance on developing solar power.
Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald said natural gas prices have a history of volatility, while the federal government could soon prohibit the burning of coal.
“We know the sun will be coming up 20 years from now,” he said.
But neither McDonald nor Commissioner Doug Everett committed to supporting the Georgia Solar Utilities plan.
Representatives of Georgia Power are expected to present their plan for expanding development of solar energy to the PSC next week.
The commission is expected to put out a Request for Proposals to consider solar proposals put forth by Georgia Solar Utilities, Georgia Power and any others that might be interested.
“We’re going to look at all of them,” McDonald said.