Monday, July 15, 2013

Red State Goes Solar As 525 Megawatts Of Solar Marches Through Georgia

Despite an attack on a solar proposal by Koch brothers' organizations, the Georgia Public Service Commission voted 4-1 to require construction of 525 megawatts of solar by 2016.

Georgia remains a full monopoly, state regulated electric industry state.  No competition is allowed with Southern Company in retail markets. Yet, conservative discomfort with the state-sanctioned monopoly as well as falling solar costs fueled this big solar victory in Georgia.  The solar proposal was seen as a means of giving customers a choice--buy grid power from Southern or install solar.

Georgia Southern also conceded that the 525 megawatt solar requirement would have not raise its electric rates, unlike its on-going construction of 2 nuclear plants, for which consumers have already been paying for years a monthly surcharge.  The 525 megawatts of solar is about 20% of the nuclear capacity under construction currently and will produce enough power for about 100,000 households.

While the solar requirement is about 20% of the nuclear plants being built, the 525 megawatts of solar will generate about 4% of the electricity that the new nuclear plants will produce, because they will not operate during night time and have reduced output during cloudy days.  The solar panels, however, will operate maximally at just the right times--when the sun is searing, temperatures are soaring, and the electricity supplies are stretched to the breaking point by summer peak demands.

This solar victory is surprising in Red State Georgia but get used to it, because solar's march through Georgia is built on its falling costs and rising competitiveness. The Georgia solar story shows how disruptive economically and politically solar is even today.

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