Georgia ranks No. 2 for growth in solar capacity since 2012, new report shows

By David Pendered

A new report commissioned by Environment Georgia provides a status report on the nation’s solar power industry and shows Georgia ranks second in the country in terms of growth in solar capacity since 2012.

Solar power, Lighting the Way report

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link spoke at an event to mark the release of “Lighting the Way,” a report on the state of solar power in the nation. The others are (l-r) Warren McPherson, director of Athens Montessori School; Gerd Schroth, a solar installer at Solar Sun World; and Colleen McLoughlin, the Solar Campaign Organizer for Environment Georgia. Credit: Environment Georgia

The report, Lighting the Way, determined that every state has more than enough sunshine to meet its energy needs. The states that produce the most electricity from solar are those that have polices that encourage installation of solar facilities.

“We’ve got plenty of sunshine,” Colleen McLoughlin, solar campaign organizer with Environment Georgia, said in a statement. “Combine that with plenty of commitment to clean energy policies and Georgia can light the way on solar.”

Georgia has a new law on the books that is intended promote the production of solar power.

The new law addresses one of the recommendations made in the report. In a section about market expansion programs, one of the recommended financial strategies is to create: “[P]rograms that allow solar customers to sell solar renewable energy credits to utilities seeking to comply with state solar generation targets.”

“Our analysis shows that policy choices are a key driver of solar energy growth,” Gideon Weissman, a co-author of the report, said in a statement. “State and local government policy leadership is closely aligned with success in growing solar energy.”

In May, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 57, the Solar Power Free Market Financing Act. HB 57 is a, “giant leap forward in the development of distributed solar power in the state,” according to a white paper by the Atlanta law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell. The paper goes on to state:

  • “Georgia has created a market for solar energy financing that did not previously exist in the state or any other Southeastern states,” said Steve O’Day, head of the Sustainability Practice Group at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, and one of the principal negotiators of the legislation.  “It is the hope of all that worked on this legislation that Georgia will see a surge in free market financing and development of solar energy projects at businesses, institutions and homes across the State.”

    Solar Facility, Southern and Turner Enterprises

    Subsidiaries of Southern Co. and Turner Enterprises have built 80,000 solar modules in California, representing another capital project putting pressure on Southern’s credit rating. File/Credit: pvsolarreport.com

Here’s what the law does, according to Smith, Gambrell & Russell:

  • “A solar company can now finance the construction of solar panels for a home, business or institution in Georgia, including public schools, government buildings, colleges and universities, military bases, etc., and be repaid for the system through payment by the property owner for the electricity produced by the solar system.”

HB 57 was sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from metro and exuburban Atlanta. House signers include Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek); Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates); Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville); Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell); Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth); and Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming).

The Senate sponsor was Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), the chamber’s majority whip.

The report commissioned by Environment Georgia notes that similar provisions are being discussed in North Carolina and Florida.

Solar electricity capacity

Here are the top 10 states in the nation, in terms of solar electricity capacity. Credit: “Lighting the Way”

In North Carolina, pending legislation would legalize third-party sales.

In Florida, citizen activists are promoting a ballot measure in 2016 to allow third-party solar ownership. The Florida effort, named Floridians for Solar Choice, involves the Libertarian Party of Florida, the Christian Coalition, and the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, according to the report.

Environment Georgia released the report, Lighting the Way, Sept. 3 at Athens Montessori School. The school has a solar power facility.

The report determined that the top 10 states in the nation, in terms of solar capacity per person, have renewable energy requirements. Nine of the top 10 states have laws that enable solar customers to connect to the grid and sell their excess power to the utility.

The top 10 states cited in the report are: Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.

Affiliates of Southern Co. and Ted Turner’s Turner Enterprises, Inc. have built a facility in Kern County, Ca., that has 80,000 solar modules. Southern California Edison has signed a 20-year contract to purchase power created by the interconnected 20 MW AC Adobe Solar Facility, according to pvsolarreport.com.

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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