Georgia's future in solar vitality is brightening up with advances in solar battery expertise – Savannah Morning Information


Adam Van Brimmer

| Savannah Morning News

ATHENS – Advances in storage batteries, not just additional panels, will fuel the future of solar energy in Georgia, a group of experts told members of the Georgia General Assembly on Tuesday.

Two members of the Georgia Public Service (PSC) and Wilson Mallard of Georgia Power, the utility's director of renewable energy, briefed lawmakers on the state's growth in generation during the Biennale Institute for Georgia Legislators, a pre-legislative introduction in Athens Solar energy & # 39; the classic center.

The panelist highlighted Georgia's rapid rise as a solar power generating state over the past decade. Solar energy was "virtually non-existent," said Georgia Power's Mallard, as an energy source in 2012. Solar energy came only from panels installed on the roofs of residential and commercial buildings. In 2020, solar is well on the way to bringing 2,600 megawatts into the state power grid.

The cost has now halved over the past eight years.

"We have waited for the time to come and a time when solar energy could have an impact on our customers," said Mallard of Georgia Power.

More: Solar roof in Georgia gets a boost

Many additional solar panels are planned for locations across Georgia, and Georgia Power expects current output to double over the next five years.

The real “game changer”, however, will be the development of storage batteries with which solar-generated electricity can be recorded, stored and distributed at night or on cloudy days, the panelists agreed.

"This is the future," said PSC's Jason Shaw, who represents the southern half of Georgia, including the coast and lives in Lakeland, near Valdosta.

High performance battery technology has made rapid advances in recent years as pioneers in the transportation industry, especially the auto industry, turned to electrical power. Utilities have followed suit and recognized the potential battery offering to solve one of the major challenges of electricity: large-scale storage.

The efficiency and cost of high-performance batteries are falling rapidly, with the trajectory matching that of solar panels over the past decade. Georgia Power & # 39; s Mallard said. Improvements are being made in both technology and manufacturing processes.

"It's on the doorstep and will play a bigger role in the future," said Mallard, who noted Georgia Power is currently piloting an energy storage program.

Despite all of the potential benefits of battery storage, regulators warn Georgia Power to take it slow.

“We just stick our toes in the water; We don't want to be the tip of the spear, ”said PSC member Tim Echols. "We don't want interest payers to cling to what we thought had a 10 year life and it ends at 18 months." It is coming and we will give it our all. We're just not there yet. "

More: Georgia is one of the fastest growing states in the country for jobs in the solar energy sector

Other solar considerations that the panelists shared with lawmakers on Tuesday related to collection boards. China continues to lead the way in manufacturing, although more panels are made in the US. Georgia has the largest solar power plant in the country. A South Korean record manufacturer opened the factory in 2019.

The PSC's Echols raised concerns about the disposal of solar panels that have reached the end of their useful life, an average of 25 years. Echols was an early user of solar energy, installed roofing panels in his home near Athens, and feared the state and nation would not be prepared to deal with disposal.

“How do we keep them out of the landfill? There are some poisonous elements and there may be a lot of them, ”said Echols, who noted that a solar panel decommissioning report is being prepared for the Georgia House Rural Development Council.

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