LAGRANGE, GA -- On Monday, May 16, Sierra Club and Environment Georgia hosted 50 Lagrange residents and elected officials at a town hall at Lagrange College to urge Georgia Power to increase the amount of clean energy in its long-term plan, also called an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The utility filed its 20-year energy plan before the Georgia Public Service Commission in January and regulators will hear testimony from the company, advocates, and the public on May 17-18.
Advocates are calling for an additional 2,000 MW of solar in the company’s plan. “The vision of the Georgia Public Service Commission has made Georgia a national solar leader without raising rates for customers,” said Erin Glynn with the Georgia Sierra Club. “There is no reason to stunt Georgia’s vibrant clean energy economy when we have only scratched the surface on solar and wind in this IRP.”
Solar energy has been particularly successful in middle and west Georgia. Christopher Smoot helped build the Butler Solar Facility in Taylor County, where solar projects will provide up to $40 million in tax revenue over the next 20 years. “These projects are the biggest local projects in the last 20 years, and they’re paying good, livable wages,” Smoot said. “We were able to put 55 MW of clean solar energy on the grid within six months. We need to make these investments now rather than later.” Statewide, clean energy--solar, wind, efficiency, and smart grid technology--account for nearly 20,000 jobs, according to Southface.
Residents also opposed Georgia Power’s plans to investigate a future nuclear plant, after the company purchased 7,000 acres of land in Stewart County, south of Columbus. Georgia Power is currently three years behind schedule and $900 million over budget for its share of Plant Vogtle Units 3 & 4. The prospective plant would be sited on the Chattahoochee River, subject to the ongoing water war with Alabama and Florida and recently named one of the top 10 most threatened rivers in the nation.
“Water is a precious commodity in Georgia yet Georgia Power seems dedicated to water hungry nuke plants that could suck millions of gallons of water every single day from the embattled Chattahoochee, said Jennette Gayer, Director of Environment Georgia. “Solar can create energy with minimal amounts of water, Monday’s town hall was about calling on the Public Service Commission to recognize these benefits and require Georgia Power to continue to make serious and meaningful investments in solar.”
Town hall participants’ comments were delivered to the Public Service Commission along with over 1,000 individual comments in favor of expanding renewable energy in Georgia Power’s plan.
“As the owner of a LaGrange Solar business and Chamber of Commerce member, I want to fully endorse the economic benefits of utility solar for our state,” Renee Warrick, Managing Partner of Present Energi LLC, a local full-service solar business. “Large scale solar is a cost effective energy resource for peaking power and provides reliable budgeting over the lifespan of power generation.” Warrick added that job creation for utility solar projects is not limited to construction, but also benefits Georgia based solar manufacturing and distribution.