Pecan farm to double solar energy for Georgia Power

A South Georgia pecan farmer is about to nearly double the amount of solar power in Georgia Power's energy mix.

The energy will come from a 200-kilowatt solar farm built on an acre of Trey Pippin's property southwest of Albany.

Built by ESA Renewables of Lake Mary, Fla., the solar system uses high-efficiency solar cells manufactured by Norcross-based Suniva.

The system went into commercial operation Thursday.

The pecan farm project is the largest private commercial solar system in Georgia -- although the government-funded system at the Georgia Tech natatorium is bigger.

Pippin's farm will produce 310,000 kilowatt hours of solar energy a year and sell it to Georgia Power under a five-year contract.

After that, Pippins will use the energy on his farm.

Georgia Power bought 345,000 kilowatt hours of power in 2009, spokeswoman Christy Ihrig said.

That's enough power to support 20 to 30 houses for a year.

Although large by Georgia standards, the facility is far from the largest Suniva has equipped, a Suniva spokesman said.

The company does much of its business internationally. It recently finished a 3-megawatt solar farm in India: That’s 15 times the size of the Pippin facility.

Georgia Power is currently proposing to build a total of 2.5 megawatts of solar capacity at various locations in the state.

"Solar is an untapped resource in Georgia," said Jeffrey Burkett, ESA Renewables' president.

"We expect this landmark solar farm to serve as a model in the state of Georgia for large-scale alternative energy projects."