Atlanta-based Georgia Power, a unit of Southern Company, launches an initiative to supply 177 megawatts of solar energy to commercial and industrial customers in the state. MATT KEMPNER / AJC

Georgia Power launches new solar partnership with corporations

Growing corporate demand for renewable energy in Georgia is contributing to growth in the state’s solar industry, as major companies turn to cost-effective, carbon-free energy options to meet their energy needs.

To meet the demand, Georgia Power has launched an initiative to supply solar power directly to commercial and industrial customers in the state through the Commercial & Industrial Renewable Energy Development Initiative (C&I REDI) approved last year by the state.

There are record 300 individual inquiries wanting solar power panels.

The utility’s new solar initiative, to supply 177 megawatts of power was approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission last year. It provided a green light for the construction of two solar energy plants in Albany and Camilla, Georgia through agreements with NextEra Energy Resources and Origis Energy.

Through the agreement, Georgia Power will pass energy costs from the two plants directly to Google, Johnson and Johnson, Target and Walmart in a contract spanning ten years.

According to Georgia Power, operations at the plants are set to begin in 2019 and 2020.

“This program demonstrates our ongoing commitment to responsibly procure renewable energy resources to meet our customers’ evolving energy needs, while ensuring reliable and affordable energy for millions of Georgians every day,” said Wilson Mallard, director of Renewable Development for Georgia Power.

Google sees the step by Georgia Power, the first of its kind in the state, as a way to meet the growing demand for energy options besides natural gas.

“What we’ve accomplished in partnership with Georgia Power and other major corporate energy buyers in the region is a testament to the important role that businesses can play in unlocking access to renewable energy, ” Google said in a statement.

The agreement, which was two years in the works, is in line with Google’s goal to use renewable energy in every market it operates in.

Through the initiative, Google will light its data center in Douglas County with 78.8 megawatts of solar.

“Providing a cost-competitive, fixed-price clean power option is not only good for the environment, it also makes business sense,” the company added.

The tech-giant is also pursuing a similar agreement for its new data center that just broke ground in Alabama, through a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The latest turn towards renewables highlights a market trend in which big companies are implemeting measures to fulfill their energy needs, while reducing carbon emmissions and cutting their costs. This week, Apple announced that all its global operations were powered by 100 percent renewables.

Data from the Solar Foundation shows 4,310 people are employed in the the solar industry in Georgia. The state recorded a 10 percent job growth in the industry in 2017 and the Solar Foundation projects an additional 0.8 percent job growth this year. The state’s job growth in solar grew consistently in the last three years, despite a decrease in national growth last year.

175,138 homes in the state are powered by solar. The state’s solar capacity stands at 1,566 megawatts.

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