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Perspective: Sunny Outlook

Georgia’s warm and sunny climate make it a great place to live and, most people would think, to capture the sun’s power as energy. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, we are 10th among other states for potential solar energy based on the sun index. Nevada tops the list; Georgia is tied with South Carolina and Mississippi.

While people have been harnessing the power of the sun as energy for decades, and we’ve been delivering it to our customers through Green Power EMC, residential installation of solar power is still relatively new in this state.

Sunlight is free. Solar power is not. Cost has been a limiting factor in the adoption of solar. While the cost of adoption is decreasing, solar power systems cost $20,000 to $50,000 to install. The price varies based on size, type of panels and the type of mounting system used.

Legislation discussed this session has cast a spotlight on new opportunities for homeowners and business owners to add solar as a source of power. Many people think a solar installation will replace their need for a traditional energy source. But the ability to convert sunshine to energy is unpredictable and entirely dependent on the laws of nature. Solar power is only available on sunny days and peak production happens between noon and 2 p.m., when the sun is directly overhead. Your demand for energy typically peaks in the winter morning hours and between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on summer evenings, when the sun isn’t available to generate power. So, homes with solar panels still have to be connected to the electrical grid so they have power when their panels aren’t producing energy.

One of the best ways to use solar power is through solar water heaters. These water heaters use energy from the sun to heat water and then hold it at the desired temperature. Solar water heating is one way people can reduce consumption and cost. Most homes use 18 to 25 percent of their energy heating water. We offer a rebate for our members who choose to install this type of system.

Solar is just one of the renewable resources EMCs across the state support through Green Power EMC. That effort supplies our members with electricity sourced from renewable resources. JEMC members can purchase blocks of power as part of the Green Power Rider – there is more about the program in this issue.

Power that isn’t used is the “greenest” energy of all. With the 45th anniversary of Earth Day celebrated on April 22, it’s a great time to think about using energy more efficiently. As a member-owned cooperative, we have an obligation to provide safe, reliable power to our members at the lowest possible cost. We are also charged with educating our members about the efficient use of electricity. Take a look at the tips for reducing consumption in this issue to manage your consumption, and your bill.