HAZLEHURST, Ga., April 19, 2017 – On Wednesday, Green Power EMC officially dedicated Hazlehurst Phase II, the latest addition to a large-scale solar facility in Jeff Davis County, Georgia. Nashville-based renewables firm Silicon Ranch Corporation contracted with McCarthy Building Companies to begin construction on the project in March 2016. By December, the plant reached commercial operation.
Located less than a mile from the original 20-Megawatt facility, the 52-Megawatt solar farm will provide power at cost-competitive rates to Green Power EMC for the next 30 years. The second phase occupies nearly 480 acres, producing enough electricity to serve approximately 8,500 households, including many in Jackson EMC’s service territory.
Jeff Pratt, president of Green Power EMC, said the solar project represents a major commitment to renewables on behalf of Georgia’s Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs). “Over 30 EMCs will share in the energy produced from Hazlehurst, providing renewable energy for a growing number of Georgians interested in this important technology. We are grateful for the support from our members and for the partnerships we have developed with Silicon Ranch.”
While natural gas, oil, and nuclear make up the bulk of Jackson EMCs portfolio, renewables currently account for only one percent of the cooperative’s total energy mix. That percentage is expected to increase as Jackson EMC moves toward renewable energy solutions in the future.
Solar power is the most abundant resource on earth. However, harnessing that energy into a useful power supply has its fair share of obstacles. Thanks to advancements in photovoltaic (solar) panels and batteries, the availability of solar energy is expanding. In addition, the cost of equipment necessary to produce electricity from sunshine has declined significantly within the last five years.
“The economics of solar are lining up where it makes sense for us,” said Jonathan Weaver, Jackson EMC project engineer. “It’s important to have a good mix of energy inputs and that means putting in solar where it makes sense.”
Through a partnership with Green Power EMC, Jackson EMC members receive solar energy from facilities across the state, including Hazlehurst and two additional farms opening later this year. By the end of 2017, Jackson EMC will have nearly doubled the amount of solar energy it provided last year, producing enough solar to power 11,000 homes.
Among the new Green Power solar facilities opening in 2017 is Cedar Creek solar farm, located in Winder, Ga. The 17-acre, 2-Megawatt plant will provide enough energy to power roughly 328 homes of Jackson EMC members living in Barrow County.
Celebrating the 15th anniversary of Green Power EMC, Pratt recently praised Georgia’s electric cooperatives for having the foresight to enter into the renewables business at a time when many utilities were not yet ready to do so.
“Looking back on the past 15 years, it’s clear to me that the electric cooperative leaders in our state were ahead of their time,” he said.
Jackson EMC President and CEO Chip Jakins believes it’s a good investment. “We’ve made a lot of progress in terms of renewable energy in recent years. Obviously, it’s not going to be our primary resource, but it’s good to have balance – just in case we need a back-up. And I don’t think solar is going away any time soon.”
As more utilities look toward the future, renewable energy is gaining in popularity among residential and commercial customers alike.
Georgia is currently 6th among U.S. states for solar electric capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.