Georgia Thrives with Solar, Renewables and Sustainability

Posted by Brian Thumann on

What a fantastic solar energy, Cleantech, energy policy and disruptive technologies panel and discussion hosted by United Consulting.  Led by Georgia Public Service Commissioner, Tim Echols, the presenters represented a cross section of stakeholders in the industry - Alicia Case, Southeast Region Lead of Sustainability with JLLWilson Mallard, Director of Renewable Development with Georgia Power, Southern Company and Kaveh Kamooneh, Owner with Better Solar Tomorrow.   Some key takeaways -

- Georgia is on the move with leading edge companies building factories to support the Cleantech industry. The Georgia Department of Economic Development working with policy makers, Georgia Power and local communities have landed some major companies that will build manufacturing facilities for EV, battery storage, solar panels and other Cleantech production. This helps to create local energy jobs, spur further economic development, and create local capacity for critical infrastructure and energy projects.

- According to Wilson, Georgia Power is implementing a comprehensive integrated resource plan so that Georgians have access to clean, reliable, affordable power 24/7/365. Georgia Power’s plan is to continue to build out utility scale clean energy generating capacity while at the same time engage local communities, their advocates and government leaders to utilize resources in a responsible manner and to create economic opportunities in underserved areas. The advent of solar farms, battery storage, site specific solar, microgrids, and other Cleantech initiatives help to produce clean energy and make the utility grid more reliable and resilient. 

- Alicia highlighted the opportunities for sustainability, ESG, and renewables for the commercial and industrial marketplace. There has been a dynamic shift on Cleantech needs moving from premium phase to beneficial phase to critical needs phase. Many companies are seeking facilities that help them achieve their corporate net zero, sustainability, building certification and ESG goals. Furthermore, firms are looking for buildings or industrial sites that enable them to fully take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act and other recent energy efficiency tax incentives. Employees are looking for good stewards of the environment and seek out companies that embrace the changing energy Cleantech landscape. From Fortune 1000 companies to smaller businesses to industrials, one theme is common states Alicia, “they want offices and facilities that can be upgraded to accommodate electric vehicles, EV charging, solar, battery storage and a healthy indoor and outdoor working environment.”  More and more companies are adding green space, outdoor common space, rooftop vegetation or green roofs, water and waste recycling, reuse, and minimization strategies. The indoor environment is being looked at from a fresh perspective to make coming back to the office more inviting such as adding employee amenities, proper air ventilation for pathogen mitigation and occupancy comfort as well as natural lighting and office ergonomic design. 

- Kaveh pointed out some really interesting developments for the residential solar sector. The biggest impact is that mainstream financial companies were seeing the value of financing solar installations and that by having competition, consumers were seeing more competitive financing rates thus making solar installations more attractive. The advancements in battery storage technologies is also a game changer. Excess solar generated can now be stored in a home energy storage system which could serve to be back up power, primary power or even charge an EV. The opportunity for EV stored energy to feed back to the grid, back to home battery or direct to the home is another exciting development. The cost of solar has sharply decreased in the last decade and with more and more installations coming onboard the upfront costs are expected to continue to decrease. 

I have attended several of commissioner Tim Echols speeches, panels and talks. Tim is passionate about energy both personally and professionally. He has installed solar on his own home and fights for Georgians to make sure they have access to reliable power at a fair price while at the same time advocates for Georgia, it’s leaders, businesses, and utilities to explore and invest in the latest clean energy technologies where they make economic sense and are advantageous to the rate payers. Georgia is in the top 10 for solar installations, not by mandate, but by a mix of forward-thinking leadership, a commitment to resource planning for the long term and by the pragmatic approach to evaluating a project or technology of its life cycle.  Georgia has done a great job of attracting new businesses large and small due to its investment in infrastructure, ports, rail, airport, and utilities. This helps create jobs, foster economic activity, and puts Georgia on the map when a company, both domestically and internationally, is making a decision on where to build its next headquarters, office, warehouse, distribution center, manufacturing facility or other important corporate investments.  

United Consulting, a multi-dispensary engineering firm had a packed house of engaged customers, partners, trade allies, consultants and decision makers. I want to personally thank their leadership team for making such an important event happen and the fellowship that continued is priceless. 

There are some many advancements occurring from virtual power plants, Microgrids, EV critical infrastructure, utility and end user scale Renewable projects to innovative financing, Measurement & Verification of energy savings to utility incentives, IRA investment provisions to new energy tax incentives. Simply put there is positive energy all around.  

Additional Resources:

JLL Sustainability & ESG Initiatives 

JLL Renewables

Georgia Power Solar Programs

Solarize Gwinnett

Tim Echols Energy Matters

Better Tomorrow Solar

Solar Energy Industries Association