Sandy storm confirms Southern Co. strategy, officials say

Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 1:40 PM
Last updated 7:04 PM
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ATLANTA -- A super storm that plunged millions of people in the most populous part of the country into the dark did nothing to change the Southern Co.’s energy strategy, CEO Tom Fanning said Wednesday.

Fanning makes speeches in support of all energy sources, specifically defending the company’s reliance on coal and nuclear, which are not popular with some political segments.

The company has sent 2,000 linemen, tree crews, damage assessors, network specialists and support staff from its subsidiaries, including Georgia Power.

They have already been deployed and re-deployed as they keep moving to the next critical area in support of utilities in the affected areas of the Northeast. It’s a switch because hurricanes strike in Southern Co.’s operating area more often.

Fanning said he’s glad to return the favor and share expertise his crews have gained on the front line of dozens of storms over the years. He also said their reports and other information he’s gathered has convinced him his company is right to continue pursuing its planned mix of energy sources.

“We (as an industry) took down some nuclear plants that lost internal power or had rising water, and all of the plants behaved beautifully,” he said.

Southern is building the country’s first two commercial reactors in 30 years at Plant Vogtle near Augusta. It has spent the past year defending them against critics who say the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that led to the destruction of reactors there should force a halt to new reactors here.

So, Fanning sounded pleased to have a natural disaster that is a success story.

“It is another example of how robust our nuclear fleet is here in the United States,” he said.

However, environmental opponents like the Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions remains unconvinced.

“The industry wants us to think that the reactors are safe, but they have not taken all the necessary precautions for predictable disasters” Bobbie Paul, Georgia WAND executive director said this week. “It is irresponsible for our elected officials and for Southern Co. to pretend they have.”

The company has been adding to its solar-generating capacity. It recently acquired the largest solar facility in the country that actively tracks the sun’s movement to keep rays focused at photovoltaic panels on a 300-acre site in Nevada. And Georgia Power is seeking regulatory permission to triple its solar capacity through various purchases from private suppliers.

The glass panels are vulnerable to debris and limbs hitting them as well as wind lifting them, but Fanning expressed confidence.

“My sense is that those resources are going to be reasonably robust,” he said.

The company is also investigating with Georgia Tech the possibility of erecting a number of wind turbines offshore near Tybee Island on the Georgia coast. But high winds damage them, forcing them to be taken out of operation during storms.

“When you’re in areas of the united states that is subject to hurricanes, that is a concern,” he said, adding that wind will never be a major energy source in the Southeast.

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 10/31/12 - 02:14 pm
All Necessary

From the story:

“The industry wants us to think that the reactors are safe, but they have not taken all the necessary precautions for predictable disasters” Bobbie Paul, Georgia WAND executive director said this week. “It is irresponsible for our elected officials and for Southern Co. to pretend they have.”

When people use the word all when talking about taking precautions; you can tell they are extremists who will never be satisfied. Someone can always come up with another disaster scenario or postulated failure mechanism. One upsmanship is prevalent in the prediction industry.

Likewise when they us the word necessary they tip their hand. One man's necessary is another man's frivolousness. It's subjective judgement.

The anti-nukes will never be satisfied with what the industry does.

Kyle Sager
Kyle Sager 11/28/12 - 04:14 pm
We don't need dirty energies anymore

Seems rather irresponsible for neither The Augusta Chronicle nor Tom Fanning to even mention "climate" in the wake of Sandy. Given that experts clearly attribute more severe drought and storm conditions to climate now (It already worsens the extremes). Damage in the US this year alone is over $150 billion; and CO2 from fixed sources like Southern Company are a major contributor to the problem. Yet both the paper and Tom Fanning act like that is not an issue.

Meanwhile, every nuclear plant built merely feeds an industry to disperse hundreds of potential Fukushima's over the landscape. Nuclear reactor problems have happened on a minimum now of 3 continents and fall-out from Fukushima even made it into cow's milk in the US.

Stanford has said wind on the east coast alone is sufficient to power the eastern 1/3 of the U.S. Germany already produces fully 26% of its power from sun and wind; and Berlin is 1,300 miles north of Atlanta.

Tom Fanning's only motivation is he does not want to share production with any distributed sources...period. Paul Bowers said last month that clean energy isn't realistic even though he obviously knows what is happening in Germany as an industry insider.

Very disappointed in the paper for not even mentioning climate. Shame. This monopoly puts our children's and grandchildren's ability to produce food at risk. Kyle Sager

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