Georgia Power breaks ground on first of three 30-MW solar projects

Leaders from Georgia Power, the U.S. Army, the General Services Administration, plus local officials, gathered April 17 at Fort Benning, Ga., to mark the beginning of construction of a 30-MW solar project.

The Fort Benning solar facility is the first of three separate Georgia Power solar projects currently in development on Army bases in Georgia. Each project will be 30 MW in size and use photovoltaic panels to produce energy. The projects are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016.

As part of the review and approval of the company’s 2007 Integrated Resource Plan, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) in October 2014 approved the development of three cost-effective renewable projects of up to 30 MW to be owned by Georgia Power. The three projects will be brought online at or below the company’s avoided cost, the amount projected it would cost the company to generate comparable energy from other sources. Future groundbreaking events for the remaining two projects are expected to take place at Fort Gordon near Augusta and Fort Stewart near Savannah. 

At the event, Paul Bowers, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power, noted the importance of the project to Georgia, as well as the extensive collaboration between the utility, the state’s PSC and the U.S. Army needed to bring the project to construction.

“Georgia military bases like Fort Benning are not only critical for national security, but also are community cornerstones vital to our state’s continued economic wellbeing,” said Bowers. “The future benefits of this solar project to the base, as well as all other innovative Georgia Power programs which enhance Georgia’s position as a solar leader, have been made possible thanks to the leadership and foresight of the commissioners at the PSC and our focus on constructive, proactive energy planning.”

Through its various solar programs, Georgia Power expects to have more than 900 MW of solar capacity online by the end of 2016 – the largest voluntary solar portfolio of an investor-owned utility operating without a renewable portfolio standard, and one of the largest in the nation. All of Georgia Power’s solar resources will have been procured from the market through competitive bidding, or at contracted prices designed to prevent upward pressure on rates.

Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), one of the nation’s largest generators of electricity. Southern noted on April 17 that three of its subsidiaries during the course of that week markedmajor milestones in the strategic expansion of one of the nation’s largest renewable energy portfolios through the announced development or acquisition of five large-scale solar projects. Subsidiaries Georgia Power, Gulf Power and Southern Power are contributing to the company’s 3,100 MW of announced or completed renewable energy generating capacity with more than 160 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar.

During the week of April 13:

  • Gulf Power received Florida Public Service Commission approval to develop 120 MW of utility-scale solar at three military installations: Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach (30 MW), and Navy facilities Holley Field in Navarre (40 MW) and Saufley Field in Pensacola (50 MW).
  • Southern Power announced the acquisition of a controlling interest in the 32-MW Lost Hills-Blackwell Solar Facility in California from First Solar.
  • Georgia Power and U.S. Army officials held a groundbreaking for the Fort Benning project.

“Investing today in sustainable energy innovations will make a better tomorrow for customers,” said Southern Co. Chairman, President and CEO Thomas A. Fanning. “We are inspired by the momentum we are developing with these new partnerships to deliver clean energy and real, measurable results.”

The Southern Co. system’s robust renewable energy portfolio is comprised of a total of 42 solar projects in six states, including Georgia Power’s development of the nation’s largest voluntary solar initiative. In March, Southern Power announced the acquisition of the company’s largest renewable energy project – the 299-MW Kay Wind facility in Oklahoma. In addition, subsidiaries Alabama Power, Georgia Power and Gulf Power have contracted to put more than 800 MW of wind energy to work for customers in the Southeast, and Southern Power operates one of the nation’s largest biomass power plants in Texas.

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.