By: David Quilty
One more coal plant down, only a few hundred more to go…
A new solar utility company in Georgia has big plans to replace several coal-fired power plants being retired in the state. When Georgia Power Company announced it was set to take two coal-burning units offline at its Plant Branch facility in order to reduce the area’s dependence on coal energy, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. offered to build a solar plant on-site and sell them the plant and power through a power-purchasing agreement. Georgia Power declined the offer so Georgia Solar is now going it alone.
Located near Milledgeville, Georgia right next door to Georgia Power’s coal plant, the new solar plant will cover 2,200 acres and cost approximately $320 million. It will be capable of generating 90 megawatts of power, double that of the solar system that Georgia Power already has in place. That is, the laws governing utility companies in Georgia changes and it can get built.
A law passed in 1973 gave Georgia Power Company exclusive rights to provide electricity to local residents. If that law remains in place, Georgia Solar will have a difficult time not only getting the rest of its funding for the new plant but also in finding customers. Thankfully, at least one member of the General Assembly believes the time has come for the law to change. Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald said that the law “has worked and served its purpose” and that “maybe it needs to be tweaked a little bit to come in line with today’s standards and technology.”
Let’s hope Bubba is right and that he can get the rest of the GA to agree and make the changes to allow Georgia Solar to build and operate this new solar plant.
The Georgia Solar Energy Association supports the Georgia Public Service Commission’s move to review the proposal for a $320 million solar installation near Milledgeville announced Thursday, Aug. 30.
Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. has stated the project would create hundreds of living wage jobs for Georgia workers. Additionally, any solar project assists in diversifying the state’s energy portfolio, improving our air quality and putting Georgia on a path to realizing its widely acknowledged solar energy potential. Georgia Solar Utilities is
proposing to build a 90-megawatt solar project on 2,200 acres in Baldwin County near Georgia Power’s coal-fired Plant Branch. If approved and completed, the development could produce enough energy to power 45,000 homes.
GSEA Executive Director Jessica Moore attended the meeting where the proposal was announced and will be following the PSC’s deliberations. “As technology advances, energy costs rise and air quality concerns grip Georgia
residents, we at GSEA welcome the innovative thought of a utility in Georgia focused on solar energy,” Moore said. “That focus will show how solar can produce jobs, increase state revenues and provide a powerful tool for delivering the sun’s potential for keeping rising energy rates in check.”
Moore also praised the wisdom of the PSC commissioners in bringing this proposal to its expert staff for careful review and public deliberation, which will ensure a thorough understanding of its impact. “We believe their careful consideration will assist in the continuing effors to increase solar in Georgia’s energy portfolio,” Moore said.
By Lisa George
A new Georgia company wants to build a 2,200-acre solar farm outside Milledgeville.
Georgia Solar Utilities recently brought its plan to the state Public Service Commission (PSC).
According to the company’s CEO, Robert Green, as soon as it’s up and running, the solar farm could generate up to one-half percent of the power Georgians use. “We will have the same power that we have right now, the same reliability that we have right now, but it will come at a significantly less cost,” said Green.
Green says his company has assurances for financial backing for the $300 million project in Putnam County.
But there’s at least one major hurdle before construction can begin: a state law called the Territorial Electric Service Act. In essence, the Act prohibits another utility from selling power to Georgia Power’s customers.
Green is counting on the PSC to help, and it appears at least one commissioner is already on board: Lauren "Bubba" McDonald.
“I think there’s a place for solar power,” said McDonald. “It will be an issue, and if the proper word is tweaking the territory rights act, if the Public Service Commission has a role in that, I think we should address it or will address it.”
Georgia Solar Utilities says, once ground is broken, the solar farm could be up and running within a year.
In response to an email, Georgia Power says it examined an earlier, similar proposal from Georgia Solar Utilities and declined to participate because it felt the project would raise rates.
By Chris Meehan
If a newly proposed utility gets its way the state could have a new, 90 megawatt, purely solar-powered utility. That is, if Georgia Solar Utilities, Inc., can get approval from the state’s Public Service Commission’s Energy Committee.
“It’s going before the commission but it’s by no means a done deal,” said Georgia Solar Energy Association (GSEA) Executive Director Jessica Moore. “Their proposal was to be set up as a new utility,” she said.
However, that means they would have to become a competitor to Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co. The company is the state’s largest utility and operates under a nearly 40-year-old law granting it exclusive rights to continue serving existing customers, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. It also owns the transmission lines in the state, meaning that any power produced by the Georgia Solar Utilities system would have to be transmitted on Georgia Power’s transmission lines.
Still, at this point, Georgia Power has not come out against the proposal, according to Moore. “Our perspective is that any additional solar deployed in ths state is going to be good for solar,” she said.
The project also asks a lot of the utility. “If they undertake the project they would sell the power generated, not directly to customers, they would sell power generated to Georgia Power,” Moore said. “They would also be asking the public service commission to require Georgia Power to let them use the grid and require Georgia Power to buy the electricity they generated,” she said.
The 90 megawatts being proposed is larger than Georgia Power’s current 50 megawatt solar program. “Currently the largest solar farm is going to be the Simon Solar Farm. That’s going to be 30 megawatts but they haven’t broken ground on it yet,” Moore said.
The 90 megawatts proposed by the utility hopeful is projected to cost about $320 million. The project is proposed for 2,200 acres in Baldwin County near Georgia Power’s coal-fired Plant Branch, according to GSEA. During construction it would create hundreds of jobs, the organization said.
By: Dan McCue
Support is coalescing around a proposal by a newly formed utility to build a $320 million solar facility on 2,200 acres near the community of Milledgeville in the US state of Georgia.
Earlier this year, the new entity, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. approached Georgia Power with a proposal to build the 90 MW facility, then sell its power to the statewide utility through a long-term power purchase agreement.
The proposal seemed particularly well timed since Georgia Power had already announced plans to retire two coal-fired plants in the area, and in light of the utility's commitment to increase the amount of power it supplies to the city of Atlanta and surrounding areas from renewable sources.
The proposed plant's capacity is nearly double Georgia Power's entire existing solar energy program.
But Georgia power officials demurred, and last June Georgia Solar Utilities said they intended to go ahead and build the facility and operate it as an independent utility.
On 30 August, the Georgia Public Service Commission announced that it will review the proposal, an announcement that has inspired an enthusiastic response from the Georgia Solar Energy Association.
“As technology advances, energy costs rise and air quality concerns grip Georgia residents, we at GSEA welcome the innovative thought of a utility in Georgia focused on solar energy,” said Jessica Moore, the association's executive director. “That focus will show how solar can produce jobs, increase state revenues and provide a powerful tool for delivering the sun’s potential for keeping rising energy rates in check.”
Moore also praised the wisdom of the PSC commissioners in bringing this proposal to its expert staff for careful review and public deliberation, which will ensure a thorough understanding of its impact.
“We believe their careful consideration will assist in the continuing efforts to increase solar in Georgia’s energy portfolio,” Moore said.
For additional information:
Georgia Solar Energy Association