It is very satisfying to see solar energy start to take hold in as inhospitable a place for alternative energy as my home state of Georgia. Atlanta-based Southern Company is one of the nation's largest coal-burning utilities that creates more carbon pollution than any other utility in the country, actually ranking #7 in global power company carbon emissions. But recently even this parent company has drastically changed its energy mix, from 70 per cent coal to 47 percent of its fuel from natural gas and 35 percent from coal. And Ted Turner teamed up with Southern Company in 2010 to form a strategic alliance that focuses on developing renewable energy projects to hurry things along. Adding to the optimism today is the news that a high school in Dublin, GA is innovating and saving their school money by building a solar energy power plant themselves.
With the world's foremost photovoltaic research facility located in Atlanta at Georgia Tech it is particularly galling to endure the state legislature's prevailing retrograde attitudes that prevent even the most sensible policies from passing. No strong Renewables Portfolio Standard, tax exemptions for renewable energy sources, or strong net metering and interconnection laws that lay out sufficient standards to protect consumers are possible here with Republicans torpedoing all such efforts.
The news isn't all bad though. Along with intrepid solar businesses thriving in Georgia, there are progressive citizens who are endeavoring to move this state forward. Dublin City Schools is going green with a new solar energy power plant that will save jobs in the district and millions of dollars.
Saving green is why Ledbetter wants to build a solar energy power plant at Dublin High School. The project has been in the works for two years.Perceptions of legislators and decisionmakers must change to get more solar technology on roofs and alternative energy options in general. These types of successes are undeniable even for the most benighted of conservatives. Kudos to these great citizens who have the courage and motivation to keep us moving forward.
"The bottom line is its going to reduce our power bill," Ledbetter said. "Over time as power rates go up over the course of the lease, it saves us even more money."
In the first year alone, the power plant is expected to save the school district $100,000 and cut one furlough day. Ledbetter says over the next 25 years, the district will save $3.5 million.
"We feel like its good stewardship of the taxpayer money and also good stewardship of the Earth God gave us," Ledbetter said.
1:31 PM PT: Update: Municipal bonds from the county will fund this project. It will be built and owned by Greenovations, a private firm, and the school district will lease it for $300,000 a year.