The Union Recorder

October 12, 2012

Solar farm part of new utility's plan

From staff reports
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. (GaSU) formed in June and filed a petition Sept. 20 with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) requesting authorization to undertake utility scale solar development.

The proposal includes an 80-megawatt (Mw) project on 2,200 acres adjacent to Georgia Power's coal-fired Plant Branch facility as the first step towards a goal of 2 gigawatts.

Originally, GaSU planned on building the $320 million dollar solar farm close to Plant Branch and selling it to Georgia Power. The existing utility refused the offer in April instead favoring to proceed with the project as a qualifying facility under the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA), according to Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft.

After the decision, Robert Green and partner Shane Owl-Greason decided to form GaSU in the mold of a mutual company. In the PSC petition, Green states “profits can be returned to the ratepayers annually in the same way a mutual insurance company or an EMC functions.”

GaSU would own and operate the solar arrays. Development, construction and financing fall with the solar utility.

If allowed to proceed by the PSC, Green said developing profits would begin to chew up coal-fired plants. GaSU thinks solar optimizes the power grid, while providing downward pressure on the rates up to 30 percent less per kilowatt-hour.

The new solar utility works just like Georgia Power except at a lower cost optimally interacting with existing utilities. The model submitted to PSC said this system would pay for itself in 25 years and in over 30 years will generate more than $7 billion for ratepayers and $2 billion in access fees and profits for Georgia Power.

A week after GaSU's petition, Georgia Power submitted its solar request to the PSC. Currently, Georgia Power has around 61 megawatts under contract. The Advanced Solar Initiative would bring an additional 210 megawatts online.

Both sides await the PSC's ruling. Green said the bond market is hungry and no other subsidies besides a 30 percent Federal Investment Tax Credit are needed to begin profitable operations.

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