Solar Today, But Offshore Wind May Be The Future For The Peach State

State Economy

The population of the “Peach State,” Georgia is approximately 10.94 million people[1]. Georgia is the 8th most populated state in the United States.

In 2021, Georgia’s economy was ranked 9th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the agriculture, aerospace, textile, timber, biofuel, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

Georgia is one of only 13 states that has neither a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) nor a renewable energy goal[4].

In January 2022, Georgia’s utilities used natural gas (44.3 %), nuclear energy (26.1 %), coal (18.6 %), and renewable energy (11.0 %) to generate electricity[5]. Hydropower, biomass, and solar are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Georgia.

In January 2022, the average cost of residential electricity in Georgia was 11.63 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.72 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Georgia include:

  • 252 MW Solar Projects – Georgia cooperatives, Green Power EMC and Silicon Ranch Corporation have announced plans to develop two solar projects in southern Georgia.
  • 213 MW Solar + 40 MW Energy Storage Project – In November 2021, NextEra commissioned the Decatur Solar Energy Center in southwest Georgia.
  • 200 MW Solar + 40 MW Energy Storage Project – In December 2021, German power company, RWE commissioned the Hickory Park solar plus energy storage project in southern Georgia.
  • 200 MW Solar Projects – In March 2021, Georgia cooperatives, Green Power EMC and Silicon Ranch Corporation commissioned three utility solar power projects in southern Georgia.
  • 150 MW Solar Project – Israeli renewable energy company, Doral Renewables is continuing work on the Brenneman Solar project in central Georgia. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2023.
  • 150 MW Solar Project – Anglo-Dutch energy company, Shell is continuing work on the Washington County Solar project in southwest Georgia. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2022.
  • 107 MW Solar Project – In December 2021, Georgia electric cooperative, Walton EMC commissioned the Snipesville II Solar project in southeast Georgia.
  • 100 MW Solar Project – In December 2021, IEA commissioned the Lumpkin Solar Park, which is located in Lumpkin County in northern Georgia.
  • 65 MW Energy Storage Project – Georgia Power is continuing work on the Mossy Branch grid-charging battery system in western Georgia. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2023.
  • 25 MW Solar Project – In January 2021, American infrastructure company, IEA commissioned the Appling Solar Farm, which is located in Appling County in southeast Georgia.
  • 20 MW Solar Project – In January 2021, American solar company, Silicon Ranch Corporation commissioned the Odom Solar Farm, which is located in Colquitt County in southwest Georgia.

Conclusion

Coal mining began in the northwestern region of Georgia in the 1830s[6]. Coal was initially used to fuel steam engines for the railroad, stoves, and forges.

Georgia’s last coal mine closed in the 1980s. The coal used to fuel Georgia’s power plants is now brought by rail from Wyoming and Illinois.

In 2010, Georgia used coal-fueled power plants to generate 56.5% of the state’s electricity[7]. In January 2022, Georgia used coal-fueled power plants to generate only 18.6 % of the state’s electricity. Why the decrease?

  1. Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[8].
  2. EconomicsThe cost to generate power from coal without subsidies is more than double the cost to generate power from renewables, like solar.
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40% to 45% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

Georgia’s utilities are actively developing solar projects across the state. However, Georgia’s solar and biomass resource potential is insufficient to meet the state’s current electricity demands.

Georgia doesn’t have sufficient winds onshore to support major onshore wind projects. However, winds are significantly stronger and more consistent off the east coast of the state.

Offshore wind has been a major source of power in Europe for over thirty years. In the United States, 13 major offshore wind projects are currently being built along the eastern seaboard from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

Georgia’s utilities are actively developing solar projects across the state. However, the winds off the east coast of Georgia have the potential to generate over 10,000 MW from current wind turbine technology.

It may be solar today, but offshore wind may be the future for the Peach State.

 

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

[1] Georgia Population 2022, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Georgia – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, August 13, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Georgia State Profile and Energy Estimates

[6] US Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement – Georgia

[7] EIA, Electric Power Sector Consumption Estimates, Georgia 1960-2018

[8] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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