Georgia Power approached the Georgia Solar Energy Association when a biomass project failed to come through.
“They wanted to replace some of the capacity from that project with solar,” said GSEA Chairman Mark Bell. “The original thinking was that most of it would be utility-scale solar.”
But the association lobbied for a larger share of the program to fund distributed generation projects smaller than 1 megawatt. The Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative ended up promising 210 megawatts between 2013 and 2015 with 45 megawatts of distributed solar generation.
The distributed generation carve-out is good for the industry, Bell said, because there are more installations – smaller ones spread out all over the state, which gives more installers more work. And the solar industry is growing.
The response has been enormous, Bell said. There were more than 1,000 applications for this year’s program.
“It’s oversubscribed this year and it’s likely to be even more oversubscribed next year,” Bell said. “This, undoubtedly, has been a great indicator of pent-up demand for solar projects in Georgia.”
There will just be one more year of the program. “The question now is, what happens after 2015?” Bell said.
Soft costs are coming down and solar panel prices continue to drop, though Bell said he does not believe panel prices will continue falling at the rate they have for much longer. While solar is becoming increasingly cost competitive without inititives like the one at Georgia Power, those incentives will probably still be necessary in 2015 and GSEA is working on developing a plan that will be ready to present in time to get new incentives in place before the Georgia Power solar incentives program peters out.
“We are cautiously optimistic that this will continue,” Bell said.