Atlanta to produce solar energy at five solar farms, including two at airport, sell to Georgia Power

By David Pendered

Atlanta intends to generate solar power and sell it to Georgia Power through a planned public-private partnership with a Chicago-based energy firm.

The Atlanta City Council on Monday authorized Mayor Kasim Reed to enter negotiations with New Generation Power, Inc. Terms call for a 20-year ground lease with the solar company, and for the firm to deliver, install and maintain photovoltaic panels and related equipment.

New Generation Power installed this solar array atop a former shopping mall that's been converted into a data center, according to the company's webpage. Credit: newgenpower.com

New Generation Power installed this solar array atop a former shopping mall that’s been converted into a data center, according to the company’s webpage. Credit: newgenpower.com

The city intends to lease land for solar farms at three landfills, which are closed, and at two sites at Atlanta’s airport, according to provisions in the legislation. The company is to pay all costs associated with the project, and its website says it has funds available through its shareholders, partners, and lending institutions.

Payments for the two airport parcels are to start at a total of about $426,000 a year and increase to about $682,000 a year at the end of the 20-year lease. Lease payments for the landfill sites are to be negotiated by the mayor. Terms of the contract provide for one renewal option of five years.

The solar farms are to be built at the following locations:

  • Cascade Road Landfill – 11 acres available;
  • Key Road Landfill – 23 acres available;
  • Gun Club Road Landfill – 38 acres available.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, on two parcels with a total of 7.9 acres adjacent to I-285 (north of the highway), near the Perimeter’s intersection with Riverdale Road (Ga. 139).

The two sites at the airport were part of the original request for proposals. Although they were not cited in the initial legislation, they were included in a substitute resolution approved by the council’s Finance Committee at its March 26 meeting.

The planned solar farm at Atlanta's airport is to be located on two parcels along the south side of the airport property. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

The planned solar farm at Atlanta’s airport is to be located on two parcels along the south side of the airport property. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

The solar program fits into Atlanta’s ongoing commitment to improve its sustainability. Another example of the effort is Atlanta’s Better Buildings Challenge, which is part of a federal initiative to improve the efficiency of buildings.

Atlanta’s solar farm program also fits into the plan by Georgia’s Public Service Commission to greatly expand the amount of solar energy produced in the state. The PSC has approved 735 megawatts through solar power arrays.

Terms of the newly approved Atlanta legislation call for New Generation Power to install equipment that can generate a minimum of 800 kW per project. The city expects that a total of 5 MW of solar power could be built on the five parcels, providing an estimated 7,000 MWh of electricity a year.

The objective of the program, according to the legislation, involves:

  • “Leasing underutilized land for the purpose of generating electricity from a renewable resource, to generate a stream of revenue, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consequently improving air quality, and to distribute the generation of energy thus increasing the reliability of our grid, and create an opportunity for local business.”

New Generation Power was one of about 15 vendors who sent a representative to the city’s pre-proposal bid meeting on March 5. Three were from outside Georgia, including New Generation Power.

Only two companies were named on the final list of proponents, New Generation Power and Atlanta-based Green Life Energy Solutions, Inc. Further information about the proposals was not included in the legislation.

New Generation Power’s website describes the company as an international “developer, investor and owner” that’s active in three segments of the energy market: Ytility scale power generation; mining exploration and extraction; and distributed generation – which means the type of on-site power generation such as rooftop solar arrays and Atlanta’s solar farm.

The company has five existing projects – three in the U.S., one in Brazil, and one Serbia, according to the website.

Proceeds of the ground leases are to be provided to an array of city accounts, including solid waste and the airport.

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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