‘Community solar’ program gives Atlantans chance to invest in solar farms

By Dave Williams – Atlanta Business Chronicle

Georgia Power Co. customers who can’t install solar panels on their rooftops soon will get a chance to support the growth of solar energy.

On Jan. 1, the Atlanta-based utility will launch a “community solar” program that will let residential customers invest in two solar farms that will generate 3 megawatts of electricity.

“Subscribers to community solar will be able to get a block of [a] solar farm … and get an offset on their bill for the production of that block,” Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said.

Community solar is being aimed primarily at customers who are unable to install solar panels for various reasons, including renters and condominium owners as well as homeowners whose roofs are in a shady area or are subject to restrictive covenants.

Kraft said the community solar program will support a 2-megawatt solar farm Georgia Power is building east of Athens and a second solar facility at a site yet to be determined. A big-box “superstore” typically has an energy demand of 1 megawatt.

Subscribers will be able to buy a 1-kilowatt block of power the solar farms will produce for $24.99 per block per month up to a maximum of 10 blocks or the customer’s monthly usage.

Kraft said the offset customers receive will vary according to the weather.

“If the month is cloudy, the credit will be smaller,” he said. “If it’s blazing sunshine every day, the credit will be larger.”

A recent article in the trade publication pv magazine USA characterized the $24.99 price for solar as “remarkably steep.”

Kraft said the program was not intended as a money-saver but to let customers who can’t install solar panels on their properties participate in growing solar production in Georgia.

“The program charge was designed to be neutral so that non-participating customers are not subsidizing those who do participate,” he said.

Consumer advocate Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch, said she would rather have seen Georgia Power commit to more than 3 megawatts. But she called the program an encouraging step.

“Hopefully, this will serve as a demonstration project that stimulates growth in community solar programs specifically aimed at helping lower- to moderate-income residential customers access the benefits of solar energy,” she said.

Copyright © 2017 Atlanta Business Chronicle

Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle