18:00 PM

Here Comes the Sun

You might not know it, but Jackson EMC sourced enough solar energy last year to power roughly 415 homes. Through our partnership with Green Power EMC, Jackson EMC members receive solar energy from facilities across the state, which added more than 6.8 million kWh of solar power to our distribution system in 2016. And, we’re adding more.

A large solar farm in Hazlehurst, Georgia, will open before the end of the year. Two more facilities will open early next year, Cedar Creek solar farm in Barrow County and Turnipseed in Douglas County, providing additional solar power for Jackson EMC members. These three additional facilities nearly double the amount of solar power Jackson EMC members receive, adding more than 10 million kWh of power. By this time next year, we’ll have enough solar energy for 1,100 homes.

Why are we including solar in our energy strategy? The answer: better technology, lower cost and environmental stewardship.

Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth. However, harnessing that energy into a useful power supply has obstacles. Thanks to advancements in photovoltaic (solar) panels and batteries, the availability of solar energy is expanding. Georgia is currently 6th among U.S. states for solar electric capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Southwestern states are ideal for solar power production because of their intense sunshine and limited cloud cover, but Georgia isn’t bad either. Georgia’s relative location to the equator makes it a good place for investment in solar power technology, according to Jeff Pratt, president of Green Power EMC, recently named 2016 Solar Power Players Electric Cooperative Utility of the Year.

“Other components that can affect a state’s ability to employ solar are inexpensive suitable land as well as a strong electricity transmission and distribution system,” Pratt said. “Georgia is blessed with both of these components.”

The cost of equipment necessary to produce electricity from sunshine has declined significantly in 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.”

Harnessing energy from sunlight is an environmental decision, too. Solar power is a clean, safe and renewable energy source that conserves natural resources.

There are drawbacks, too. Energy storage technology has not advanced to keep the lights on with solar power generation alone. Reliability of the electric grid relies on continuous production of electricity.

“Solar energy availability is fully dependent upon available sunlight,” Pratt said. “Even on a bright, sunny day, large cumulus clouds passing over the solar site will reduce energy production by 50-80 percent.”

In addition, we use significant amounts of energy after dark. No sunshine, no electricity production.

Do you want to support more energy coming from renewable sources? Sign-up for Green Power and add $4.50 a month to your electric bill. Learn more at www.jacksonemc.com/green.