Georgia Power’s 90 MW of Army solar is part of a broader plan

The Georgia Power unit of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) on May 15 announced plans to build, own and operate three separate solar generation facilities of 30 MW (ac) each on U.S. Army bases in Georgia.

The generation facilities will be located at Fort Stewart near Savannah, Fort Benning near Columbus and Fort Gordon near Augusta. Scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016, the facilities are expected to be the largest solar generation facilities operating on U.S. military bases.

The press release announcement was made in conjunction with the company’s updated Renewable Resource Action Plan filed on May 15 with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC).

“Through constructive regulation and thoughtful energy policy planning, Georgia is leading the way in developing cost-effective solar generation for customers,” said Norrie McKenzie, vice president of renewable development for Georgia Power. “The agreement with the U.S. Army not only marks another step for Georgia Power’s solar initiatives, but further enhances the state’s position as a solar leader and will strengthen both the bases and the surrounding communities.”

As part of the review and approval of the company’s 2007 Integrated Resource Plan, the Georgia PSC approved the development of three cost-effective renewable projects of less than 30 MW to be owned by Georgia Power. The three projects will be brought online at or below the company’s avoided cost.  

Georgia Power said it is committed to developing economical renewable energy as part of a balanced generation portfolio including new nuclear, advanced coal and natural gas, as well as energy efficiency. By 2016, the company projects that it will have a solar portfolio of nearly 900 MW – the largest voluntary solar portfolio in the nation.

In addition to the new solar projects with the U.S. Army, the company anticipates more than 500 new solar projects will be brought online in the coming years through existing solar programs including the Large-Scale Solar initiative and Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative.

Georgia Power, in the May 15 report filed with the PSC, updated the status of various renewable energy initiatives.

Large Scale Solar Program

In July 2011, the PSC approved Georgia Power’s plan to purchase energy from up to 50 MW of solar capacity under a program referred to as the Large Scale Solar program (LSS). The company signed 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) in December 2011 for 49 MW of solar energy with two developers. Simon Solar Farm LLC was contracted to build a 30-MW project near Social Circle, Ga., and Solar Design and Development LLC (SDD) was contracted to build solar projects totaling 19 MW on sites in Mitchell and Meriwether counties.

The Simon Solar Farm, now owned and operated by Silicon Ranch Corp., became commercially operational in mid-December 2013, ahead of schedule, and hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 13, 2014. Origis Energy, as the new owner of the SDD facilities, hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Feb. 11, 2014, at the Camilla (Mitchell County) site, where the 16-MW facility went into commercial operation shortly thereafter. A second SDD site, the 3-MW Camp site located in Meriwether County, was commercially operational as of December 2013. The Simon Solar Farm and Origis solar facilities will sell output as qualifying facilities until the LSS program’s required Commercial Operation Date (COD) of June 1, 2015.

The commission approved the LSS PPAs for 49 MW in December 2011 and January 2012, respectively.  A third company, Belectric, executed an LSS PPA for the remaining 1 MW in October 2012. The required COD for the Belectric LSS PPA is also June 1, 2015.

The Conversion at Plant Mitchell to Wood Biomass

The company planned to convert Plant Mitchell Unit 3, as approved by the commission in March 2009, from coal to wood biomass. Due to changes in economics, the plans to convert Plant Mitchell Unit 3. Increased capital costs and costs related to environmental compliance, in addition to the slower than expected economic recovery and lower natural gas prices, have significantly reduced the project’s value and benefits for customers. The company said it expects to file for decertification of Plant Mitchell Unit 3 at a future date.

Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative

The commission approved the Advanced Solar Initiative (ASI) in November 2012.  The initiative created the nation’s largest voluntarily developed solar portfolio by an investor-owned utility. Through ASI, the company will acquire energy produced from 210 MW of solar generation through long-term contracts.

The 2013 ASI Utility Scale Program solicited projects ranging from 1 MW to 20 MW in size through a competitive request for proposals (RFP) to fill a 60 MW portfolio with projects to be commercial in 2014. The 2014 ASI Utility Scale Program is currently seeking to procure projects from 1 MW to 20 MW in size through an RFP to fill a 70-MW portfolio with projects to be commercial in 2015. Georgia Power executed four Utility Scale contracts totaling 50 MW in late 2013, which the commission approved in December 2013. The remaining 10 MW of the 60-MW portfolio rolled over into the current 2014 RFP for a total of 70 MW.

The Distributed Generation (DG) Program acquired Small Scale (up to 100 kW) and Medium Scale (101 kW to 1,000 kW) projects through an application process in 2013, seeking 45 MW of solar generation to be commercial in 2013. The 2013 application process resulted in 33 MW under contract, consisting of 88 total projects.

As part of the company’s 2013 IRP, the commission approved an additional 525 MW of solar (425 MW of Utility Scale and 100 MW of DG) which are to be procured in a manner that generally follows the protocols of the ASI programs. The company refers to this additional solar procurement as ASI Prime. Efforts are underway for the procurement of the utility scale portion of this additional capacity. The company issued an RFP for 495 MW (2014: 70 MW rollover, 2015: 210 MW, and 2016: 215 MW) of solar generation on April 2, 2014. The RFP closed on April 30 having received a very “robust” response. The bid evaluation process has begun and the winners are expected to be announced by early October 2014.

The 2014 DG Program had a 12-MW shortfall from 2013, which was rolled into the proposed 45 MW to be sought for 2014, for a total of 57 MW to be procured. The 12-MW rollover was allocated to customer-sited projects. The application process was open from March 26, 2014, to April 4, 2014. The company expects all the 2014 DG generation to be under contract and online before the end of 2014. The additional 100 MW of DG capacity approved in the company’s 2013 IRP will be procured in 2015 (50 MW) and 2016 (50 MW).

Application for Certification of Blue Canyon II and VI

Georgia Power has entered into PPAs to purchase 250 MW of wind energy for 20 years from the 151-MW Blue Canyon II and 99-MW Blue Canyon VI wind farms in Oklahoma. Delivery under these PPAs commences in January 2016. The company has requested certification of the Blue Canyon PPAs and a stipulation recommending certification was reached by Georgia Power and the GPSC Staff with a decision from the GPSC expected by May 20, 2014.

2010 IRP 1 MW Solar Photovoltaic Demonstration Project

In an effort to learn about development and costs of solar projects and gain experience with solar technology, the company proposed building a 2.5-MW portfolio of large-scale solar demonstration projects in its 2010 IRP. The company received approval from the commission to build a 1-MW portfolio. The company is pursuing a 1-MW solar demonstration project, and has identified a preferred site that is currently in negotiations for development. Current plans call for executing an Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contract to initiate the project by Q3 2014, which would enable the project to be in-service in early 2015.

Potential Renewable Resource Projects

2007 IRP Renewable Projects with Capacity of Less than 30 MW

This Action Plan serves as notice that the company has identified three cost-effective renewable projects to be developed and placed into rate base under the 2007 IRP.  These are the three Army base projects outlined in the May 15 press release.

2013 IRP Demonstration Projects

Potential demonstration projects are currently being evaluated. Georgia Power is pursuing a partnership with Georgia universities and currently working on siting locations for the small wind demonstration. The company plans to evaluate different turbine technologies with each turbine having a capacity of less than 10 kW.

A solar tracking demonstration project is underway in coordination with Southern Company Services Research and Environmental Affairs. Georgia Power continues to finalize the scoping document outlining the project’s development.

A scope of work has been developed for the rooftop solar demonstration project and RFPs are being developed for equipment purchases and installation.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.