The energy company Georgia Power has run the numbers, and it looks like solar energy comes out a winner. The company is planning to build a new $75 million solar array at US Navy Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia, and it expects the project to be up and running next year, at or below the cost of generating energy from other sources. That covers quite a bit of ground, as Georgia Power’s sources run the gamut from nuclear to hydro.
Solar Energy With Benefits
The new US Navy solar energy venture kicked off last week with the signing of a real estate outgrant, which gives Georgia Power legal authority to use 258 acres of land at the base for a 42 megawatt (30 MW AC) ground mounted solar array.
The electricity won’t go directly to the base — it will go to Georgia Power’s transmission lines — but the Navy gets the indirect benefit of introducing more renewable energy into its grid mix (Georgia Power is the electricity supplier to the base).
The Navy also gets access to a secure energy source, since the solar facility will be located entirely within the base.
As an overall agency goal, the new array will also go into the Navy’s one-gigawatt pot of renewable energy, a goal set by the Secretary of the Navy that is supposed to be reached by the end of this year.
According to the head of the state’s Public Service Commission, the new solar array could also help the Navy — and the state of Georgia — avoid another round of base closings.
Solar Energy Beats Everyone… Eventually
Our friends over at bizjournals.com also note that the new solar array will make up for a cancelled plan to convert a coal-fired power unit to biomass at its Mitchell power plant in the southwestern part of the state.
The company cited higher compliance costs for biomass along with lower natural gas prices. As for Georgia Power’s other energy sources, the solar array may win out on avoided costs but it still has a long way to go.
As of last year, Georgia Power’s fuel mix was 41% coal (including one rather notorious coal plant), 35% gas and oil, 22% nuclear, and 2% hydro — solar wasn’t even a blip on the screen.
However, change is afoot. In addition to a growing solar portfolio (including a 90-megawatt solar project covering three Army bases), Georgia Power has also introduced municipal landfill gas into the mix, and last time we checked, the company was looking into offshore wind energy in its home state.
When you look at the big picture in Georgia, the solar scene is a little rosier. Apart from Georgia Power’s projects, the state has 173 solar companies, and last year it ranked 15th in installed solar capacity.
Good luck with that offshore wind thing. Georgia was one of the states that hung on the sidelines when the US Department of the Interior organized the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium back in 2010, to accelerate offshore wind energy development.
However, in 2011, the state’s Department of Natural Resources commissioned an offshore wind energy study from the Georgia Coastal Research Council, and the Georgia Institute of Technology has been collaborating on an offshore wind energy study since 2005, so fingers crossed.
Photo Credit: US Navy (Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS West Virginia returning to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ashley Hedrick).