Power On: Georgia's growing renewable and alternative energy sector
A feature from Georgia Trend
Photo Credit: WoodieWilliamsPhoto.com Photo Site: Agnes Scott College
"We found that in 2030 we could reduce our state’s carbon emissions by about one-third and really get our state on this path to a net-zero emissions trajectory by mid- century.” --- Blair Beasley, director of climate solutions, Ray C. Anderson Foundation
In 2018, when Facebook announced it was opening a massive data center in Newton County, bringing an initial investment of $750 million, it had a big request: to be powered 100% by renewable energy. Fortunately, Georgia was ready and the social media giant is getting its wish.
The campus east of Atlanta will be powered by solar energy produced by Silicon Ranch Corp., which broke ground in October on a $220 million, 250-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Lee County. The solar project, expected to be completed in two to three years, is being built in three phases. Phase one will provide power to Walton Electric Membership Corp. (EMC) as part of that utility’s agreement to provide renewable energy to Facebook. A portion of the solar power output is also being sold to Green Power EMC, a renewable energy provider owned by 38 other Georgia EMCs.
“That company [Facebook] asked for 100%, brand newly installed solar, clean energy for their facility,” says Scott McMurray, deputy commissioner for global commerce for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Georgia EMC was able to provide that for them.”
This project and others, like Dalton’s Hanwha Q CELLS, a 300,000-square-foot facility and the largest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere, are helping Georgia’s solar market boom. Investment in solar manufacturing, and commercial and residential use, is being pulled forward by a combination of factors – the Wild West of free-market forces, lowered equipment prices, better technology, federal tax credits and heightened public and corporate awareness.
The result: Georgia is No. 9 in the nation for solar installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).