Solar farm

Solar farm

Some of Georgia’s landscape will change from farms to solar farms after the state’s Public Services Commission agreed to add 2,210 megawatts of solar energy to Georgia Power’s 2019 Integrated Resources Plan (IRP).

The three year-plan required by the state also includes the closure of five coal-producing units and three hydro dams.

Increasing the state’s renewable and solar energy market has been on PSC Chairman Lauren “Bubba” McDonald’s agenda since 2013, when the state had less than 300 megawatts of solar energy online. McDonald approached Georgia Power about adding solar energy. The PSC approved 525 megawatts of solar energy in 2013 and added another 1,600 in 2016.

Georgia Power initially proposed 1,000 megawatts but that was increased to 2,210, nearly doubling Georgia’s renewable energy sources by the end of 2022.

“Georgia specifically has a tremendous amount of open space land that gets sun a lot of the time,” said Tom Krause, PSC spokesman. “It’s a market-driven approach that has proved to be profitable for Georgia and helping lower costs.

The solar energy, combined with construction of two nuclear reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant near Waynesboro, “will give Georgians clean, reliable energy for years to come,” McDonald said in a statement.

The reactors at Vogtle were approved by the PSC in 2009 but hit a stumbling block when the contractor, Westinghouse Electric Company, filed for bankruptcy in 2017. The PSC voted to continue with the construction with the third reactor coming online in 2021 and the fourth reactor coming online in 2022, Krause said.

The five coal-generating units closed by the plan were older plants that were not as efficient to operate, Krause said. The closure will reduce Georgia Power’s coal-fired generation capacity to “half of what it was in 2005,” the company said in a statement.

Georgia Power is also planning to own and operate 80 megawatts of battery energy storage.

"Working with the Georgia PSC, we are positioning Georgia as a leader in the Southeast in battery energy storage, which is critical to growing and maximizing the value of renewable energy for customers as we increase our renewable generation by 72 percent by 2024," said Allen Reaves, Georgia Power's senior vice president and senior production officer in a statement.

Also included in the utility’s three-year plan is an income-qualified program that will give customers a chance to help raise funds for low-income consumers who need help improving their home’s energy efficiency. An Income-Qualified Energy Efficiency Pilot Program will help 500 residents save about 20 percent of their household electric energy. The customer will repay the improvement costs through their utility bill.