Georgia Power to buy up to 50 MW of solar energy by 2015

Georgia Power said Friday it would buy up to 50 megawatts of solar power by 2015 to comply with a state utility regulator’s request to add more of the alternative fuel to its energy mix.

The utility said it would strike agreements with individual solar-power producers to meet this goal. Georgia Power said it intends to enter 20-year agreements to buy solar from projects that range between 1 and 30 megawatts. One MW has the capacity to power 250 homes or one Super Target store.

Georgia Power’s plans come in response to a request from Georgia Public Service Commissioner Lauren McDonald, who earlier this month gave the utility 30 days to come up with ideas for large-scale solar energy projects. The utility said it would include its proposal as part of its long-term energy plan that will be submitted to the PSC in July.

Support for solar coming from the PSC and other state officials is "new to us," said Doug Beebe, chairman of the Georgia Solar Energy Association.

"We’ll do everything to work with them to make that happen," said Beebe, speaking to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after attending Friday’s Georgia Solar Energy Association Solar summit downtown.

Georgia Power can currently buy up to 4.4 megawatts of solar power from independent power producers. It collects the costs through a voluntary, premium-priced green power program.

Separately, the PSC requires Georgia Power to retain additional renewable power as part of its fuel mix, company spokeswoman Lynn Wallace said. When the company buys this alternative energy from a provider, it pays between 5 to 6 cents a kilowatt hour in avoided costs, the amount which it doesn’t have to pay to produce electricity from fossil fuels.

In Friday’s filing with the PSC, Georgia Power warned that if it has to pay a higher amount for solar power than what it would take to produce the same amount of electricity themselves, customer bills would go up.

Georgia Power provided the PSC an amount it would pay for solar power, though that number is confidential, Wallace said.

Kristi E. Swartz,