Georgia Power says closing coal plant won't make room for solar

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ATLANTA — Executives from Georgia Power Co. on Wednesday rejected the idea that closing a coal-fired power plant would open up capacity for generating electricity from solar panels.

They were responding to questions from Stan Wise, one of the five members of the Public Service Commission who will vote Thursday on the utility’s 20-year plan. Normally, plan approval is fairly routine when it comes up every three years, but this year, it has become the focus of debate about whether the state’s largest electric utility should rely more on renewable energy sources.

“I think this is so weighty that we had to have this to make sure that I knew all that I needed to know going into tomorrow,” Wise said.

Environmental groups have advocated for more solar since Georgia Power submitted its plan before months of formal hearings. In recent days, conservative organizations, including some affiliated with the tea party movement, have weighed in – but on opposite sides.

The PSC members, who are the least-known of the statewide elected officials, have been bombarded by e-mails and phone calls. The sides plan separate Capitol Hill rallies before the vote.

Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald is expected to propose an amendment to Georgia Power’s plan to require it to double the amount of solar generation it can access. Although that would still amount to less than 2 percent of all of the company’s generation, Wise says that the utility already has 25 percent more capacity than it expects to use on its busiest day.

He invited company executives to discuss whether ending its contract for electricity with an Alabama Power plant would be a way to increase solar without adding to the expense of further overcapacity.

Kyle Leach, Georgia Power’s director of resource planning, said conventional power plants are needed to step in when the sun isn’t shining. He said solar panels on the company’s headquarters skyscraper last summer operated only 80 percent of the daytime because of clouds and rain.

Converting the Alabama plant to burn natural gas makes it functional any time, he said.

“It is able to generate on call from our operations center in Birmingham 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and seven days a week,” Leach said. “… Everyone knows Mother Nature decides when solar produces and solar output can vary significantly throughout the day, throughout the season.”

When solar is producing, it does so more cheaply than most other electricity plants, which can sit idle until needed, Leach said.

Wise summed it up, “You’ve got all the costs associated with it whether you use it or not.”

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nocnoc 07/11/13 - 06:57 am
Makes sense to me.

An I am no big fan of Southern Company and their political control of the GA Gold Dome.

Any one that has toured a solar farm knows to work it needs space and lots of sunshine.

Coal plants are not a prefect solution, but they work and now work cleanly.

If you haven't been following the news.
The President, his EPA attack agency, and the low information voting Tree & Fish Huggers are attacking several USA power generation industries at once. Hydro Electric and Coal fire are both under attack.

Soon, as customers we will see large rate hikes, due to these attacks.

If you think $5.00 a gallon gas is too high wait until you see night rationing of kilo-watts if we are forced to go Solar farms and no Coal and/or Hydro-electric backup.

An much of the nuclear power generated in GA is used in other surrounding states, not GA last time I checked.

nocnoc 07/11/13 - 07:30 am
To grasp the the needs of a

To grasp the the needs of a Solar Farms to replace other forms of power generation plants check out:

This Test solar farm sits on almost 12 acres. It has 10,276 solar panels producing more than 3.6 million kilowatt hours annually . That’s only enough power for 325 average sized U.S. homes.

Using US Census numbers:
There are 4,102,992 homes in Ga. and to power 325 homes it takes 12 acres of solar panels.

4,102,992 homes / 325 x 12 = equal required acres.
Southern Company would need 151,495.089 Ac. or 236.711Square miles of Ga. Land.

To put that in prospective Augusta Richmond Co. is only 306.5 sq miles. So with every thing North of Hephzibah is wiped off the map and then some, and you have what a Solar Farm would need, just in land.

That is 10,276 solar panels per ac. X 151,495.089 ac at a cost per commercial grade solar panel of about $8,000 per panel.

That is about $7,783,817,672,820 .......
$7.7 Trillion $$$$ just to Purchase the solar panels.

Add a ball park figure of 1/3 the cost as labor (yea right) $235,873,262,812.72
$235.8 Billion Dollars

Add a low ball emit domain price of $8,000 per acre for 151,495.089
$1,211,960,712.00 or $1.2 Billion
(not counting legal suits and a court delays)

Now who do you think South Company is going to charge
$7,783,817,672,820.00 Panels
+ $235,873,262,812.72 Labor
+ $1,211,960,712.00 Land

An that low number depends of the amount sunshine given in 365 days a year and a new power grid not even figured into the numbers.

YES solar power can augment other sources of energy but it will never be the primary source power in the next 50 to 100 years.

Bodhisattva 07/11/13 - 07:38 am
The solar operated 80% of the

The solar operated 80% of the daytime. The other plants don't operate at all and are on standby. The company already has 25% more capacity than it needs on its busiest day. Now their building two $14 billion+ 2,400 megawatt nuclear facilities that, thanks to around 70 lobbyists, lord knows how much money, and Don Balfour, we've been getting to pay for, and will continue to pay for, whether or not the thing ever comes on line. Meanwhile, the shareholders take no risk and are guaranteed a rate of return that's about 5x what you'd get on $100 grand in a 10 year cd. And the want to raise rates again while energy costs have been at rock bottom prices. Crooks and liars.

Bodhisattva 07/11/13 - 08:40 am
You're comparing costs to

You're comparing costs to building a unit for one home to mass purchasing. That's like pricing catsup in the individual packets you get a fast food joints. Like most manufacturing, China has taken over the market. Due to cheap labor and the rapid drop in the price of polysilicon, based on Germany's cost per Kw (around $2,250), the equivalent of a Plant Vogtle could have been built for a little under $4.5 billion. 1/3 of the cost for solar over nuclear. Sounds like a deal to me.

nocnoc 07/12/13 - 11:35 am
Don't forget

Close but not right

A Solar panel farm the 3/4 size of ARC will still be required to house the panels maybe not all in 1 spot. Now take that much acreage out of the GA tax digest and the rest of GA. will need to up its taxes to cover the shortfall.

A nuke plant runs for 20+ years with maintenance.

A Solar Cell run 5 to 7 years with maintenance.

True the price will come down if a large farm is built all at once.

But we both know it will not happen it will likely be 50 or 60 rural Solar Farms of 4 to 5 Sq miles. So even if you cut 1/3 or 1/2 off my estimate, the resulting $4 Trillion dollars is a lot of $$$$$$ and that still requires much more $$$$$ to run it and a lot more staff hours to maintain a Solar Farm than a Nuke plant or a awful lot more than a Coal plant.

Think about where we would be right now in ARC having had 11+ days of clouds and rain and 7 more forecasted. Where would the juice come from to turn the lights on?

By the way, be thankful for reserve capacity it keeps the AC flowing in 100 Degree weather. Or when they offline another unit for scheduled or emergency repairs.

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