Solar power never faced an outright ban in Georgia, but for consumers, the upfront costs made solar power installations unaffordable. Residents have been prohibited from signing contracts such as power purchase agreements (PPAs), which allow solar installers to cover those costs in return for selling electricity back to a local utility. Despite such roadblocks, Georgia ranks 15th in solar power capacity, but it could inch up thanks to legislation passed in the state’s legislature. House Bill 57 is a game changer, and in the long run, we could see Georgia home to a thriving solar industry on the scale of a nearby southern state, North Carolina.
Last Friday, the bill passed the Georgia Senate unanimously after it sailed through the House in February with zero nay votes. Homeowners can now sign agreements with solar power companies that allow them to sell electricity generated from the sun back to the local grid, in turn allowing them to pay off their installations over the course of as many as 20 years. The legislation did set a limit of how much electricity a residential solar installation owned by a third party can generate: 10 kilowatts. The cap was inserted into the legislation at the request of local utilities including Georgia Power, which had long claimed unrestricted solar could drive up electricity rates for the state’s residents.
Part of the change in Georgia is based in the joint efforts of the state’s Tea Party and the Sierra Club. The Green Tea Coalition, for example, has worked across the political spectrum to expand choice for consumers who were tired of the way monopolies, as in Georgia’s utilities, limited choices on how Georgians could power their homes. This awkward alliance resulted in the passage of a law two years ago that required Georgia Power to purchase 525 megawatts of solar power by 2016: and 20% of that must come from residential and commercial installations instead of large solar farms. As a result, the strict regulations on rooftop solar in Georgia were untenable.
Governor Nathan Dean, a Republican, is expected to sign this legislation soon. Watch for Georgia to soon crack the top 10 solar power generating states.
Image Credit: Ken Lund
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