By James Marlow Jr.

At a recent congressional hearing, Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise told Congress that Georgia cannot meet a proposed mandate to obtain at least 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

Wise went on to say that other states would be able to meet the requirement, which may soon be imposed by new federal regulations.

With all due respect to the commissioner, he greatly underestimates Georgians’ ability to rise to this challenge and, in the process, clean up our air and create thousands of new, high-paying jobs.

Wise claims Georgia lacks the sunlight that has allowed other states to successfully generate solar energy. This assertion, is just plain wrong.

Georgia averages over five solar sun hours each day, which is more than enough sun for solar to make a significant contribution to Georgia’s energy needs.

In fact, solar energy has worked well everywhere it has been deployed, including places far less sunny than Georgia. Germany is the world’s leading solar market and averages only two solar sun hours each day. Solar energy is also working in Canada, and in the Northeastern U.S.

Wise and others claim that solar is too expensive, but when they compare solar to traditional energy sources such as nuclear or coal, they do not fully include federal subsidies and the environmental costs of those sources. More importantly, the cost of solar is rapidly coming down, while the cost of building traditional power plants is going up.

Solar is also “shovel ready,” meaning it is a technology that can be put right to work today. In addition to providing clean electricity, solar can quickly provide thousands of high quality, high paying new jobs for Georgians.

New solar construction can start in a few weeks, and large systems can be operational in 90 to 180 days. Plant Vogtle’s proposed reactors, by contrast, will not be operational until 2017 or beyond.

Solar is not the only solution; rather, it is an important part of a renewable energy strategy. Coal will remain a source of electricity for Georgians for years to come. But it’s time for Georgia’s political leaders to step forward and work with the business community to ensure that more of our electricity comes from clean, renewable sources. Solar is a proven technology that is ready to be put to work today.

Solar’s benefits include:

• No ongoing fuel purchases. Sunlight is free. Georgia has sunlight, but no coal; • A reduction in “peak” energy needs. Energy demand is typically highest in Georgia when the sun is shining and the air conditioning is on; • No air pollution. It also does not require precious water resources; and • Reliability. Distributed solar production is far more reliable than a power system based on a few big generating plants.

Georgia’s utilities have proven to be resourceful and innovative when given the proper incentives. Hopefully, Georgia will soon join North Carolina, Florida and 30 other states in making the development of solar energy a priority.
Marlow is CEO of Radiance Solar, an Atlanta solar energy company.
Copyright (C) 2009 by Georgia Forum. 4/09

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