As the utility opened its doors to applications for what will probably result in a total of about 210 megawatts of utility-scale and distributed generation solar projects over the next two years, installers and developers were no doubt hammering out proposals.
“We’re expecting to get more applications than we have funds allocated,” said Wilson Mallard, clean energy manager for Georgia Power.
The initiative is broken into two parts. The first is a utility-scale initiative that will accept applications for 60 megawatts of solar energy development a year for two years. Developers will be able to apply to build projects between 1 and 20 megawatts each.
Developers will respond to a request for proposals on the utility side. The bids are due in May, Mallard said.
“We will consider some non-price elements with that like experience, location in relation to transmission lines and the financial stability of the company,” Mallard said. “But mostly, that will be based on price.”
The lowest-cost solar installations will walk away with contracts, he said.
The RFP is being managed by an objective third party to avoid any issues with politicking or even the perception of politicking, Mallard said. That’s an addition to the program that he said solar developers were pleased about.
On the distributed generation side of the initiative, the utility plans to pay 23 cents per kilowatt hour on a 20-year contract. Small-scale projects up to 100 kilowatts for residential installations and small commercial projects will be broken out from medium-scale projects up to 1 megawatt, Mallard said. But they will all get the same incentive of 13 cents.
The distributed generation installers will be able to submit their applications online and they will also be independently reviewed by a third-party. If there are too many applications, which Mallard said the utility expects, projects will be selected by a random lottery.
The solar initiative was approved by the Public Utilities Commission in November.
“We’ve been watching solar a while now,” Mallard said.
The utility is concerned with diversifying its electricity generation portfolio. The company is building nuclear power plants now and has a large portfolio of coal and natural gas electricity plants.
“We wanted to capitalize on the cost of solar dropping and we thought now was the right time to add solar,” Mallard said.
He added that he expects the distributed generation to save on transmission expenses.