Friday, September 23, 2016
NOTES FROM THE SENATE, SEPTEMBER 23, 2016
SOLAR AND WIND: ZERO EMISSION GENERATION
Although the majority of electricity generated in Georgia comes from coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy, there have been great strides in electricity generation from renewable energy resources like solar and wind. Since the beginning of the decade, solar energy has taken off in Georgia with support from the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), Georgia Power Company (GPC) and federal, state, and local incentives.
UTILITY SCALE VS. DISTRIBUTED GENERATION SOLAR
There are two main methods of generating electricity from solar and wind sources; distributed generation and utility scale. Distributed generation uses small to medium scale facilities located at the site where the electricity will be used. Utility scale generation uses large scale facilities and transmits the electricity to the end users via the electrical grid. The majority of solar energy in Georgia is generated from utility scale solar farms. Utility scale solar produces 430.5 megawatts and distributed generation produces 45.1 megawatts.
GEORGIA SOLAR FACILITIES
Currently there are 108 utility scale solar farms in Georgia. This has increased significantly from just one solar farm in 2010. The number of distributed generation installations has also increased quickly. Currently there are 1,152 distributed generation installations in Georgia. Below is a list of the largest solar farms in the state with how much electricity they generate and how much land each array occupies.
TOP GEORGIA SOLAR FARMS AND THEIR LOCATION
Decatur Pkwy Solar Facility, Decatur County
Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Camden County
Fort Benning, Chattahoochee County
Pawpaw Solar Facility, Taylor County
Simon Solar Farm, Walton County
Butler Solar Farm, Taylor County
Richland Solar Center, Twiggs County
SR Hazlehurst Solar Farm, Jeff Davis County
Decatur County Solar Project, Decatur County
Solar Glynn, Glynn County
SOLAR INNOVATION IN GEORGIA
In the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the PSC approved a pilot project along an 18 mile section of I-85 in Troup County called The Ray. The Ray pilot demonstration was reaffirmed in a commission vote on September 8, 2016. This project results from collaboration between the PSC Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. The goal is to place solar panels in the right-of-way of I-85 to generate up to one megawatt of solar energy. The solar array could provide power for lights along the interstate. This is the first such project in Georgia and will be one of very few such projects in the country. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate that solar energy can be generated from the unused right-of-ways on Georgia's interstates and be cost effective. If successful, this roadside solar option could pave the way for future projects along the other major interstates like I-16, I-75, and I-20.
THE FUTURE OF WIND IN GEORGIA
Wind energy is not yet wide spread in Georgia because of the variability of winds throughout the state. Currently Georgia Power purchases 250 megawatts of wind energy from EDP Renewables North America LLC in Oklahoma. In the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the PSC approved the GPC High Wind Study, which will determine where wind generation is economically viable within Georgia. This will compliment other wind feasibility studies going back to 2005. The High Wind Study will be a site specific wind data collection off of the Tybee Island coast with 4 small turbines. GPC will file quarterly reports on the study with the PSC.
GEORGIA'S BRIGHT FUTURE IN SOLAR POWER
Solar and wind electricity makes up a little less than 1% of electricity generation in Georgia currently. However, these renewable energy resources are growing in popularity and affordability. A future column will look at the many local, state, and federal incentives for solar and wind energy as well as the trends in renewable energy incentives around the United States.