The solar train is leaving the station, but the nuclear buggywhip is in the way

The president of the Georgia Solar Energy Association Solar Energy Industries Association says the solar train is leaving the station nationwide, but Georgia remains enmeshed in tangled legislation. We could have changed that last year with SB 401 if Georgia Power and Southern Company’s vested interested in new nuclear plants at Plant Vogtle hadn’t gotten in the way. We can change it next year with a similar or better law. The time to contact your Georgia legislator or candidate is now, while election season is on.

Update 14 June 2012: Fixed Rhone Resch employment attribution.

Rhone Resch wrote for the Saporta Report, 3 June 2012, It’s time to put solar to work in Georgia

There are now more than 100,000 Americans employed at over 5,600 solar businesses in all 50 states. Many of these are small businesses that have been hit hard by the recession, but they are finding new opportunity for growth in the solar industry.

In Georgia, there are more than 80 companies in the solar value chain including Suniva, MAGE Solar, Inc. and Enfinity Corporation. I will be joining representatives of each of these fine companies — and many others — at the Southern Solar Summit on June 15 in the Georgia Tech Research Institute Conference Center in Midtown Atlanta to talk about the strides solar is making, and what remains to be done.

These companies are leading rapid innovation — across the entire value chain, from manufacturing improvements to new financing and sales mechanisms, that are allowing more and more Americans to go solar.

He points out that more solar was installed in 2011 than the total installed in 2008 and 2009, which shows that Moore’s Law continues to work for solar: the price per watt continues to go down, causing demand to go up. He projects forward:

The U.S. is on pace to install nearly 3,200 megawatts of new solar capacity this year with an annual growth rate of 30 percent through 2016.

At that rate, the United States would add more than 25,000 megawatts of new solar capacity between now and 2016. That is roughly the size of 25 coal-fired power plants and represents a significant opportunity for states that aggressively move to obtain a share of this exponentially growing market.

Hm, at Plant Vogtle the operating nuclear reactors produce about 2,430 megawatts and the two new ones under construction are supposed to produce about 2,200 megawatts. So that 25 gigawatts of new solar capacity by 2016 would be about 20 nuclear plants, a number that may be familiar from what Germany has already deployed. Somebody remind me again: why are we building any new nukes? How about if we end the nuke boondoggle and get on with clean green jobs for community and profit?

Rhone Resch says what Georgia can do:

Georgia, with its prime solar resources in America’s Sunbelt, can also enjoy the benefits of a robust solar energy market. But first, policymakers here must remove artificial market barriers constructed at a different time and for a different purpose making it complicated and expensive for consumers to go solar.

In Georgia, if you are a homeowner or business that wants to install a solar system that will allow you to generate your own electricity and reduce your electric bills, odds are you can’t. If you are fortunate enough to get past these arcane, confusing state rules, you still may have to face off against your local homeowner association, which in Georgia has the right to tell you what you can or can’t put on your roof.

And who got Georgia’s Territorial Electric Service Act passed back in 1973? Georgia Power. And who isn’t interested in fixing the “nuances” in that law that prevent you from putting solar panels on your roof and selling the power to somebody in Atlanta? Thomas A. Fanning, CEO of Southern Company, Georgia Power’s parent company.

Back to Rhone Resch:

The truth is, in Georgia, free markets don’t exist when it comes to energy.

This is unfortunate, because the train is leaving the station. The United States will continue to be one of the hottest markets in the world for solar energy, and the states that open up their electricity markets will be best positioned to reap the thousands of new jobs and billions in economic investment from the solar industry. At this point, Georgia will not be one of them.

But things are changing and fortunately Georgians have strong advocates in the General Assembly, including Reps. Karla Drenner and Don Parsons, as well as Sens. Buddy Carter and David Shafer. These Georgia leaders from both sides of the aisle recognize that solar energy is driving job creation and economic growth as it continues to become more affordable for homeowners and businesses with every passing day.

While the legislative session has ended in Atlanta, there are still opportunities to build support for the 2013 session. As a first step, Georgia should allow homeowners, businesses, schools, churches, and government to sign power purchase agreements (PPAs), to cut their electricity bills with solar energy. Currently under dispute in Georgia, clearly authorized PPAs would introduce competition into the state’s energy market by allowing consumers to sign long-term contracts with companies that provide solar energy.

Carter championed bipartisan PPA legislation earlier this year, but unfortunately it ran into opposition that eventually killed the bill. But there is momentum.

By “opposition” he means Georgia Power’s disinformation campaign that stopped SB 401.

The military has found long-term PPAs vital in its mission to generate more electricity from renewable sources. And lawmakers in Atlanta are hearing from base commanders back in their communities how important PPAs are as they look to cut energy costs and decrease our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

See Veterans for clean energy: Operation Free. While Georgia dithers, Moody Air Force Base moves ahead with solar. And here’s how our Marines become Birkenstock-wearing tree huggers”: by realizing petroleum supply convoys to locations where solar power could easily be deployed made them an unnecessary target, and solar back home could give the whole country energy independence, in a real national security strategy, as Jim Dwyer has pointed out.

It is important that Georgia does not miss the opportunity it has to be a leading solar energy market in the United States. Stakeholders from across the state must come together — including everyone from the business community to the average citizen who wants the right to generate their own electricity — and tell their representatives in Atlanta that solar energy can work for Georgia, as it does for America, if they make the state’s electricity market a little more free.

Resch will be the morning keynote speaker at the Southern Solar Summit, which is open to the public. For more information and reservations, visit

That’s this coming Friday, 15 June 2012 in Atlanta. Here are writeups on some talks from last summer’s summit.