What to do if you can’t interest Georgia Power in building solar? Do it yourself, and do enough so you can be a utility yourself. That’s the loophole in the 1973 Electric Territorial Act that FPL and JEA use to burn coal at Plant Scherer in Georgia and export the power to Florida. Now Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. is using the loophole for a better purpose: building almost twice as much solar generation as Georgia Power’s meager 50 MW.
Dave Williams wrote for the Atlanta Business Chronicle yesterday New Georgia utility pitches solar plant: A new utility is planning to build a $320 million solar power plant on 2,200 acres adjacent to Georgia Power Co’s coal-burning Plant Branch near Milledgeville, Ga.
Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. initially approached Georgia Power, a unit of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), with a proposal to build the plant and sell it to Georgia Power through a power-purchasing agreement.
Georgia Power is retiring two coal-fired units at Plant Branch, part of a move to reduce the Atlanta-based utility’s reliance on coal.
But when Georgia Power officials declined to take part in the project last May, Georgia Solar Utilities executives decided to build the plant on their own and operate it as a new utility independent of Georgia Power.
Once cost prohibitive, solar energy has become competitive with fossil fuels because of the rising costs of coal and tighter government regulation of coal emissions, said Robert Green, founder of Georgia Solar Utilities.
“When you don’t have to buy coal or worry about environmental hangovers, it overwhelms the costs of fossil fuels, Green said Thursday after presenting the proposal to the Georgia Public Service Commission’s Energy Committee.
Some say the PSC can’t approve such a utility because of that 1973 law. I suspect that if they don’t approve this proposal, the next one will be even harder to turn down, and the next one, as they become even more competitive.
Green said Solar Energy Utilities already has obtained bond financing for the project, taking advantage of historically low interest rates.
And they didn’t have to get a federal loan guarantee, or get the state to let them charge customers before the plant is built, or get the PSC to let them charge cost overruns to customers, all unlike Georgia Power and Southern Company’s nuke boondoggle at Plant Vogtle.
Southern Company shareholders take note: if SO keeps stonewalling for nuclear boondoggles and dirty fossil fuels, the SO dinosaur will be leapfrogged by solar-powered mammals like Georgia Solar Utilities Inc.
Many SO shareholders are Georgia voters. You can speed up this process by electing new GA PSC members and legislators who will change that 1973 law so not only big companies can generate solar and wind power and sell it through the grid, but you can, too, from your own rooftops or parking lots.