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Friday, October 07, 2016

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, OCTOBER 7, 2016

GOING GREEN AND SAVING GREEN

Across Georgia there are businesses which have adopted solar power as a way to save money. This is possible through financial incentives discussed previously and reduced utilities costs since the solar energy would be shaving off the peak demand for the business. There are also universities and schools around the state adopting solar energy and providing curricula using solar power. Here are some examples.

McELROY METAL

The McElroy Metal manufacturing plant in Peachtree City partnered with Inovateus Solar to install solar panels on its roof. McElroy and Inovateus Solar took advantage of some of the incentives offered by Georgia Power such as the power purchase agreements. This allows excess electricity produced by McElroy to be put onto the electric grid. McElroy receives 13 cents per Kilowatt that they put onto the grid. In 2015 the solar panels at McElroy Metal produced approximately 500,400 kilowatts and the manufacturing plant only used approximately 295,920 kilowatts meaning McElroy's solar panels were more than enough to power the manufacturing plant.

McElroy also was able to take advantage of their metal roofing when installing their solar panels. Prior to installation McElroy put a new metal roof on the building and it has a similar lifespan as the solar panels themselves. This will limit the disruption of the solar array during its useful lifespan.

VALDOSTA STATE UNIVERSITY

In 2013 Valdosta State University added a solar canopy to its library to provide shade and energy. This is a part of the university's sustainability efforts. The canopy generates 10 kilowatts. The university had been investigating installing solar panels since the mid 2000's but recently the price has fallen to a point that made it prudent to purchase and install some panels. This provides a real world example of how the decreasing price of solar energy is leading to greater adoption, even without increased incentives.

IKEA

In addition to reasonably priced furniture, IKEA is also bringing zero emission solar energy to most of their properties in the United States. This includes the large distribution center in Savannah and the retail location in Atlanta. IKEA has a long time commitment to the environment and by adding solar power to their locations they have reduced their carbon footprint while also saving money in the long term through reducing their need to purchase electricity. IKEA is a bit different than the previous entities. It does not have any power purchase agreements. The energy produced is used on site. The upside to this arrangement is that IKEA owns all of the solar panels.

At the Atlanta location IKEA has installed 4,312 panels which generate 1,035 kilowatts per hour. The distribution center in Savannah uses 6,076 panels and has a 1,458 kilowatt per hour capacity. Altogether, IKEA's solar projects nationwide will produce approximately 38 megawatts of electricity once they are all completed. This will account for the majority of electricity used by IKEA in the US.

SUNPOWER FOR SCHOOLS

The SunPower for Schools program was developed by Green Power Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) and each of the member EMC's. This program sets up a one kilowatt solar system at participating schools and provides software so that students can study how solar panels create electricity from sunlight. This program was started in 2005 and so far has been expanded to 36 schools throughout the state. Among them is Tattnall County High School. The SunPower for Schools program provides a curriculum designed by the University of West Georgia to cover science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics.

A chicken farm in the Fourth District is generating a majority of the power needed during the daylight hours with solar energy.

THE SUN SHINES FOR SOLAR POWER

The companies, university, and schools mentioned above have purposefully decided to adopt solar energy in some way. The McElroy Metal, IKEA, Valdosta State University and the poultry farm have done it to save money on utilities and to help to the environment by using renewable and zero emission energy. The SunPower for Schools program is providing students a first-hand experience with solar energy and expanding knowledge of solar energy throughout the state.

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