Georgia Power filed a request with the Public Service Commission (PSC) today in order to expand its solar energy capacity between now and 2015. The utility is looking to triple the amount of solar from 61 MW annually to 210 MW over a three-year period.
This is an abrupt shift from Georgia Power’s previous position that solar was too expense to be a viable energy resource.
But all that has changed since solar installation costs have dropped as much as 75 percent in recent years, says solar advocate and Tybee Island City Council member Paul Wolff.
“The costs have come down dramatically and continue to fall,” Wolff said. “…Anything we can do to incentivize solar, particularly distributed solar, is going to benefit the state, region and nation by not only producing green, emission-free energy but by using no water.”
Water shortages have plagued Georgia and its largest city, Atlanta, in recent years. About half of the U.S.’s daily water usage is attributed to water used to cool power plants.
Georgia Power is quick to take credit for the recent PSC filing as “the largest solar initiative in state history,” adding that if the plan is approved, the utility will become “the largest solar player among investor-owned utilities in the 13 states where renewable energy quotas aren’t mandated by law.”
Even so, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a national trade organization representing solar interests in the United States, isn’t terribly impressed.
“More needs to be done for Georgia to become a true leader in solar and to build a sustainable solar market in the state… The program announced today offers a very limited program for homeowners and business owners to install solar on their own roofs,” SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said via a public statement in the wake of Georgia Power’s announcement.
“Distributed solar must be allowed to grow at a rate higher than 10 megawatts per year in order to create a truly sustainable market and jobs across the state.”
But for others in the state, Georgia Power’s moderate approach is a good enough start.
Tim Echols, PSC Commissioner, stated that the plan is an “excellent short term solution.” State Sen. Buddy Carter, who failed to get a solar power purchase agreement (PPA) bill out of committee during the last legislative session, agreed.
“I was pleased, to be quite honest, that they have evolved into the position they’re taking,” Carter stated. “They’re moving the needle and I’m glad to hear that.”