Georgia Power Co. unveiled a plan Wednesday to more than triple its investment in solar energy production. The Atlanta-based utility submitted a request to the Georgia Public Service Commission for authority to acquire 210 megawatts of additional solar capacity through long-term contracts over a three-year period.
Georgia Power, a unit of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), currently has 61.5 megawatts of solar power under contract, enough to power about 7,600 homes.
“We believe the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative will encourage new opportunities for solar development in our state and catapult us to the forefront of this clean, safe energy technology,” said Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers.
Georgia Power’s proposal came less than a week after a new Macon-based solar power company filed an application with the PSC seeking up to 500 megawatts in solar generating capacity as a starting point toward an eventual goal of 2,000 megawatts. The PSC is expected to consider both plans during the coming months.
Of the 210 megawatts proposed by Georgia Power, the company would seek bids annually for three years for 60 megawatts to be provided by “utility-scale” bidders capable of building large solar farms with generating capacities of up to 20 megawatts. Electricity produced by those projects would be sold to customers at a rate not to exceed 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, said Greg Roberts, Georgia Power’s vice president for pricing and planning.
The remaining solar power – 10 megawatts for each of three years – would be provided by smaller projects that would let residential and commercial property owners install solar panels and sell the electricity to Georgia Power, Roberts said.
Rates for power generated by those projects would be set at no more than 13 cents per kilowatt-hour, he said.
Solar power advocates have criticized Georgia Power for years for not pursuing solar energy more aggressively. But Mike Hazelton, Georgia Power’s marketing vice president, said solar power wasn’t competitive with other sources of energy until recent technological advances brought down the costs. “We want to make sure we don’t create any upward pressure on rates to our customers,” he said.
Georgia Power customers had to request solar power under Georgia Power’s previous green energy programs because of the higher cost. But Hazelton said the new program would simply incorporate solar power into the utility’s energy mix. Roberts said he hopes the PSC will approve the Georgia Power initiative by the end of the year so the company can get started as soon as possible.
Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle