ATLANTA, GA – Georgia Power Company and the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) brokered a deal to increase the amount of solar power the utility generates in the Peach State today when the utility filed a proposal to develop 210 megawatts (MW) of solar power over the next three years as part of its Advanced Solar Initiative program. Sierra Club and GreenLaw applaud today's announcement, but call on Georgia Power and Georgia Public Service Commissioners to further tap Georgia's solar resources, and allow homeowners to pursue solar power generation on their property through a variety of financing mechanisms.
"This is a great first step from Georgia Power to tap our tremendous solar potential and make this clean resource a more significant part of our statewide power generation," said Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia Chapter of Sierra Club. "But this is only a step. New Jersey installed 277 MW in the first half of this year alone and Georgia Solar Utility has proposed 2,000 MW by 2016, nearly 10 times the current proposal from Georgia Power and the GPSC. This proposal only scratches the surface - we can't stop here and let our potential go to waste."
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, two-thirds of Georgia has rooftop solar resources equal to Florida, and has greater solar resources than North Carolina and New Jersey. Yet, in 2012, both North Carolina and New Jersey outpaced Georgia in existing and planned solar projects. Today's announcement builds on last year's deal brokered by Commissioner Lauren "Bubba" McDonald for Georgia Power to purchase 50 MW of solar power, only a fraction of a percent of the utility's current coal-fired generating capacity.
"Until recently, Georgia Power refused to acknowledge that our solar resources could be tapped in a serious way," said Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, executive director of GreenLaw. "This new solar plan is a step in the right direction, and as Georgia Power plans how it will generate power in the years to come, our Public Service Commissioners should look for further opportunities to power Georgia homes and businesses with clean, locally-generated power."
In 2008 alone, Georgia sent $2.62 billion out of state and to South America to import coal to be burned for electricity, at a cost of $270 per person statewide. Further, compared to multi-billion-dollar coal and nuclear plants, solar electricity is stable, and even declining in price, since there are no ongoing fuel costs or expensive facility retrofits. Solar power can serve as a cost-effective alternative to traditional power generation in Georgia. Finally, solar power is a drought-proof energy resource that does not need freshwater resources, unlike coal-fired plants, which use hundreds of millions of gallons of water across Georgia each day.