Extreme Temperature Diary- June 16, 2018/ Hot Topic: Georgia On My Mind

Saturday June 16th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😊. Here is today’s main climate change post related hot topic:

Georgia On My Mind

Being a lifelong resident of the state of Georgia in the U.S. I know all about its political, non-progressive policies on everything from education to transportation. This is one post in which I was pleasantly surprised to learn that renewable, green energy is taking over faster that I thought was occurring. Here is the article that brought this matter to my attention:

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/14062018/georgia-solar-power-renewable-utility-scale-clean-energy-investments-2018-election

Located one state north of the  “Sunshine State” of Florida, Georgia receives an abundance of rays all year long in between weather systems. There are rare instances that most of the state goes without sun for most of a week, but as Georgia gradually gets a more tropical climate due to global warming, I’ve noticed more sunny days over the last couple of decades.

I was under the false  impression that solar power would only become a major player here when federal and state subsidies kicked in propping up that new, green source of power. Not so. Quoting from the article:

Georgia’s solar capacity has increased dramatically in the past five years, ever since the PSC required Georgia Power—an investor-owned utility with 2.5 million customers—to install hundreds of megawatts of solar farms starting in 2013.

With Georgia lawmakers avoiding policies that could be viewed by conservatives as subsidies, the state achieved much of its solar growth through an energy planning process with Georgia Power that is overseen by the PSC.

The commission doesn’t view its solar requirements as a type of mandate. “It’s an agreement between Georgia Power and the PSC,” said commission spokesman Bill Edge.

Chart: Georgia's Solar Boom

There were no subsidies involved, McDonald said. As Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, has expanded its solar capacity, solar farms have been built and operated by other companies through competitive bidding, helping to keep costs down, Edge said.

“It’s market driven,” McDonald said. The state has “lots of good, flat land,” plenty of sunshine, and interest rates were low, making solar investments more affordable. The initiative was carried out as solar technology was advancing and prices for solar panels were falling, he said. “It was like a perfect storm.”

McDonald, a former state lawmaker whose current term on the commission won’t expire until 2020, said he still supports coal, nuclear and natural gas because they can run 24 hours a day, but he said solar offered an opportunity to help diversify the state’s energy mix.

With the cost of solar power in Georgia dropping from 13 cents per kilowatt-hour to below 4 cents in the last five years, McDonald said he expected continued growth in a way that moves “slowly and methodically.”

Notice that Georgia made the top ten, but California by far outshines (pun intended) the rest. Continuing  from the article:

Solar is still less than 2 percent of the state’s electricity generation mix—almost all of it utility scale—so there’s plenty of room to grow.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said that compared to distributed, rooftop systems, “utility scale solar is currently the most cost effective, and these large-scale installations provide the most value for Georgia Power customers.” But he also said the utility does offer customers programs to support rooftop solar.

Renewable energy “plays an important role in the diverse generation mix we use to serve customers,” Wilson Mallard, director of renewable development for Georgia Power, said in a written statement. The company, he said, will continue to make sure every renewable energy project “helps us keep energy reliable and affordable.”

The Big Lift: Getting the Legislature to Help

Success with a five-member commission is one thing. Moving the state’s conservative legislature toward new policies that encourage rooftop or smaller-scale distributed solar will be a bigger political lift.

“Historically we have not had solar-friendly policies,” said solar business owner Don Moreland, chair of the Georgia Solar Energy Association. He described fighting for pro-solar legislation as “a long slog”.

But that slog sometimes pays off, and Georgia in 2015 joined more than two dozen other states in allowing third parties to finance limited-sized solar systems. Its Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015 was passed with support from a broad coalition of electric utilities, environmental interests and others. With this business model, homes and businesses are allowed to host solar panels installed and operated by a solar provider and, though long-term contracts, get some of their benefits without having to pay the up-front costs or maintenance.

How Energy Costs Compare: Levelized Cost of Electricity

The Solar Message for a Conservative State

“It’s all about the message,” Dooley said. “Free market, competition, choice, expanding the energy portfolio and energy mix. I don’t want excessive regulations.”

Some lawmakers might be receptive to her arguments. But they’re monitoring the political winds and watching Plant Vogtle.

“I wasn’t a big supporter of solar, but the economics have drastically changed,” said State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Republican from northeast Georgia who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and has been critical of the nuclear plant’s financing.

He echoed Dooley in saying Plant Vogtle’s problems have voters looking for other energy choices and acknowledged he’s thinking about introducing legislation with implications for solar power.

Terry, with the Sierra Club, said he’s optimistic about solar in Georgia.

Solar technology continues to improve, he said. He noted that Atlanta is expected this month to spell out how it intends to get all its electricity from clean fuel sources by 2035, likely giving solar another boost.

“It’s just a good time to be in this space,” he said. “There is so much happening with this technology.”

I reprinted most of the article and the tables for this post. The rest is a good read from Inside Climate News. I’ve been a Georgia Power customer most of my adult life. They began offering for slightly more cost electricity coming from “green” sources about a decade ago, which I use.

It’s nice to learn that conservatives and liberals are coming together to increase green energy in my home state. The main impetus for change is cost, though, a purely market driven force. Since free markets drive the U.S. economy the proverbial writing is on the wall that green generated electricity, fortunately, will replace oil, coal, and even natural gas as the primary sources of energy the next couple of decades across the United States. There is quite a ways to go before some good goals can be met, however 

To me only 2% of electricity generated by solar by Georgia Power is paltry, but hopefully  this figure will move up rapidly over the  next decade. Also, I don’t see very many solar panels on rooftops across Atlanta where a vast, untapped amount if energy is wasted. Still, I am glad to at least report some good news today. 

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As far as our current heat wave goes, most of the Plains and South will experience maxes in the sweltering 90s on Sunday:

 

National Weather Service advisories have greatly expanded in the Midwest on Saturday:

Here are Saturday’s maxes:

Heat was only marginally dangerous outside of the Midwestern advisory area where maxes were 85F+. Remember to keep windows rolled down when leaving passengers in vehicles when parked for any length of time.

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The Climate Guy

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