Georgia Power volunteers for a major solar program

The in-the-works Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative (GPASI) is the largest voluntarily developed solar portfolio from an investor-owned utility in the United States.

Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), filed the GPASI on Sept. 26 with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC). If approved, Georgia Power would acquire 210 MW of additional solar capacity through long term contracts over three years.

“We believe the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative will encourage new opportunities for solar development in our state and catapult us to the forefront of this clean, safe energy technology,” said Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers. “This initiative builds upon our record of maintaining not only one of the nation’s safest and most reliable electric systems at rates below the national average, but one of the most innovative as well. We will continue to build a diverse generation portfolio that utilizes the most cost effective and advanced technologies to benefit our customers.”

Georgia does not have a state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires utilities to acquire clean energy sources. And in 2011, only 15 utilities nationally reported integrating more than 20 MW each to their grid, and eight reported more than 50 MW each. All of those utilities are located in states with an RPS.

Julia Hamm, President and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), said: “SEPA applauds Georgia Power’s proposal to take this action without a mandate to do so, but rather because it recognizes the value additional solar energy will provide to the utility.”

“We look forward to working with Georgia Power to ensure a straightforward and simple process for interested Georgia businesses and families who want to install and provide solar to Georgia Power,” said Pete Corbett, president of the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association.

To meet the target of 210 MW, Georgia Power’s Utility Scale program would purchase 60 MW annually for three years through a competitive request for proposal (RFP) program with projects ranging in size from 1 MW to 20 MW. By as early as 2013, a Distributed Scale program would provide opportunities for up to 10 MW per year of smaller solar projects with specific reservations for Small Scale (less than 100 kW) and Medium Scale (100-1,000 kW) projects.

RFPs for the Utility Scale program will be conducted in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and require commercial operation dates in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Georgia Power could begin signing solar contracts under the Distributed Scale program as early as the first quarter of 2013.

The plan was developed with the Georgia Public Service Commission, and will complement the company’s existing solar initiatives, including the existing 50-MW Large Scale Solar program.

Georgia Power serves 2.4 million customers in all but four of Georgia’s 159 counties.