Call it peachy keen. Georgia is adding 50 megawatts of photovoltaics into its electric grid. The Southern Co. subsidiary announced June 29 that it signed an agreement with Solar Design & Development (SDD) for 19 megawatts of solar projects. That’s in addition to the 30 megawatt project Simon Solar Farm project announced late in 2011.
“This is our first large-scale solar initiative. It was approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission at end of last year,” said Georgia Power spokesperson Lynn Wallace. “The public utility commission in Georgia charged us with looking at ways to incorporate more solar into our mix.” That’s despite the state not having a renewable portfolio standard, she said.
SDD already has a 1 megawatt project under contract with Georgia Power. But that was added through a request for proposal request to support it’s green energy program. “It is a subscriber-based program. Customers can buy blocks of energy through it,” Wallace said.
The 19 megawatts of projects announced on June 29 are for utility-scale projects that will feed directly into Georgia’s grid. “The impact will be minuscule to ratepayers,” Wallace said.
SDD was one of two companies that won bids with Georgia Power for the 50 megawatts of projects. The other is the Simon Solar Farm. That’s a 30 megawatt photovoltaic farm that’s being built near Steve Ivey’s grandparent’s farmland in Social Circle, Ga.
The new installations are expected to have minimum impacts on Georgia Power’s rate-payers, according to Wallace. And with 2.4 million customers, it’s the state’s largest utility.
The company hasn’t integrated more solar partly because it has some of the nation’s lowest electricity prices. “I think our position on it is the cost of the electricity in the southeast is some of the lowest in the country, and our rates are among the lowest in the country,” Wallace said. “We try to have a mix but we also want to make sure whatever type of resources we procure are cost effective for our customers.” While she observed that the price of solar has come down, it’s not at parity with Georgia Power’s other generation sources, including natural gas, coal and nuclear.
Still, the company is evaluating solar. “We’ve been doing some research and development,” Wallace said. That includes testing seven types of modules at its headquarters. It also has solar panels on poles across the state to see how they perform, based on humidity, weather and other factors.