Georgia Solar Finally Gets A Little Love

Georgia Power and its parent, Southern Company, don’t have a great reputation when it comes to encouraging solar power development. A move the company made yesterday might improve that reputation – a little.

Georgia Power said it had asked state regulators to allow it to acquire 210 megawatts of new solar capacity through long-term contracts over a three-year period.

georgia solar

image via Shutterstock

The company said “the initiative would create the largest voluntarily developed solar portfolio from an investor-owned utility.” In making this claim, the company is apparently not counting utilities that operate in states with renewable portfolio standards (Georgia doesn’t have one).

In California, where utilities need to get 33 percent of their power from renewables by 2020, both Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison are building or contacting for 500 MW of solar each over the next few years with projects ranging from 1 to 20 megawatts. The two utilities have also connected nearly 1,100 MW of solar (including 350 MW residential) through the California Solar Initiative, in addition to contracting for power from massive utility-scale solar projects.

Georgia Power will go both big and small to meet its 210 MW goal. Through  a utility scale program – projects from 1 to 20 MW apiece – it will purchase 60 megawatts annually for three years through a competitive request for proposal program. It will also do a distributed scale program, totaling up to 10 MW a year through projects in two categories: less than 100 kilowatts and 100-1,000 kW.

The Solar Energy Industry Association wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels over what it called a good “first step” by Georgia Power.

“(M)ore needs to be done for Georgia to become a true leader in solar and to build a sustainable solar market in the state. Important policy decisions lie ahead,” the group said. “The program announced today offers a very limited program for homeowners and business owners to install solar on their own roofs. Distributed solar must be allowed to grow, creating jobs across the state, at a rate higher than 10MW per year in order to create a truly sustainable market.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.