Report: Solar energy is growing in Georgia, but there’s more to the story

New large solar installations are on the way, but Georgia’s rooftop solar industry is lagging
Alternative Energy Southeast employees Lauren Minter, lower left, Aaron Basto, center left, and Russell McCune, right, install eighteen solar panels on the roof of a residence on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 in Ellenwood, Georgia. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Alternative Energy Southeast employees Lauren Minter, lower left, Aaron Basto, center left, and Russell McCune, right, install eighteen solar panels on the roof of a residence on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 in Ellenwood, Georgia. (Jason Getz /

Georgia has shaken off pandemic-driven supply chain shocks to resume its steady growth in solar energy, a recent report says.

As of 2022, Georgia had an estimated 3,769 megawatts of total solar capacity installed, according to the “Solar in the Southeast” report produced by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), a nonprofit clean energy advocacy group. That’s up by more than a quarter from 2,970 megawatts in 2021.

But as Georgia relies more on solar to meet its electricity needs, not all of the state’s industry is basking in sunshine, the report found.

Here’s what else you need to know:

Where does Georgia rank?

Georgia ranked third in installed solar among the seven Southeastern states.

Sunny Florida is far and away the leader in the region, with 7,288 megawatts, followed by second-place North Carolina with 4,273. South Carolina is fourth, while Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi are well behind the rest.

Florida, Georgia and North Carolina are also among the top 10 states nationally for installed solar, according to separate rankings from the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry trade organization. Georgia comes in at seventh in those rankings.

How utilities compare

Several Georgia utilities, electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) and other providers are among region’s top outfits for solar, according to the SACE report.

Georgia Power — the state’s largest electric utility, with 2.7 million customers — ranks fourth overall among large utility systems in the Southeast for the share of electricity it delivers to customers that’s produced from solar. Oglethorpe Power, which provides electricity to dozens of Georgia EMCs, is also among the top 10 large providers.

Georgia is also home to the electricity provider with the highest solar-to-customer ratio in the entire region in Walton EMC, a cooperative with 135,000 customers across Northeast Georgia counties.

As tech companies turn to solar to meet their energy demands and achieve their climate goals, Walton EMC has become a leader. The utility has partnered with Meta, the parent of Facebook, to install hundreds of megawatts of solar in rural counties to power the company’s Newton County data center.

Walton EMC’s CEO Ron Marshall said it will continue to seek such clean energy partnerships.

“Developing a resourceful renewable strategy and negotiating unique utility-scale power contracts with global brands has positioned us as one of the country’s most innovative and respected electric cooperatives,” Marshall said in a statement.

How bright is Georgia’s solar future?

By 2025, Georgia is set to overtake North Carolina for the second spot in the region for total installed solar, the report shows. On a watts of solar delivered per customer basis, Georgia could pass North Carolina as soon as next year, SACE said.

The growth projections are mainly driven by future large, utility-led solar projects. Georgia Power’s long-range energy plan approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) call for the company to add 200 megawatts of small scale installations to its system by 2025. Even more solar is on the way later this decade, when the company is expected to add another 2,100 megawatts.

Views of Qcells solar manufacturing facility in Dalton, Ga. as seen on Tuesday, January 10, 2023.  (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@

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Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@

The report says the solar tax incentives that were established or extended by President Joe Biden’s climate and health law — known as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — will also help grow solar in Georgia and across the region.

The solar panel giant Qcells is building a new, 3.3-gigawatt plant an hour northwest of Atlanta near Cartersville, plus adding another 2.1 gigawatts of production capacity to its existing factory in Dalton. Production at both facilities is expected to begin by 2024 and bring 2,500 jobs to the state.

The company has said the domestic manufacturing incentives in the IRA spurred its expansion.

Are there pockets of concern?

As Georgia’s solar industry — which supports roughly 5,300 jobs — continues to grow, not all sectors are booming.

The vast majority of solar in Georgia is in utility-scale arrays — not smaller rooftop and commercial installations. The SACE report found that less than 9 percent of the solar connected to Georgia Power’s system is “distributed,” an industry term for electricity generated near the location where it will be used, like a home or business.

And rooftop solar will continue to lag in Georgia without changes to the state’s policies. the report says.

One major impediment is the lack of net metering, a billing mechanism that credits solar customers more for their excess electricity, which can dramatically lower monthly bills. The PSC created a pilot program in 2019 , but it was capped at 5,000 participants and has been full since mid-2021.

Solar proponents — including the city of Atlanta — have pushed Georgia Power to expand its net metering program. But the company has successfully rebuffed those attempts, arguing before the PSC that net metering customers benefit from its grid, without paying enough to maintain it. The rooftop solar industry has argued that the reported “cost shifts” to non-participants are negligible.

Mike Harris, an installer for Creative Solar USA, installs solar panels on a home in Ball Ground, Georgia on December 17th, 2021.

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Still, the PSC declined to expand the program twice last year.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said in a statement that the company is committed to growing solar, but said non-solar customers must be protected from increased costs.

The PSC recently approved a 4-cent increase in the price solar customers receive for electricity sent back to Georgia Power. In a statement, District 1 Commissioner Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland) said the price bump “appears to be a sweet spot where solar panel owners are justly compensated for excess electricity without over-burdening other ratepayers.”

Don Moreland, the executive director of the Georgia Solar Energy Association, said his group will continue pushing for change at the PSC and in the Georgia General Assembly.

A note of disclosure

This coverage is supported by a partnership with 1Earth Fund, the Kendeda Fund and Journalism Funding Partners. You can learn more and support our climate reporting by donating at