Solar Power for Georgia


The Macon Telegraph

P.O. Box 4167

Macon GA. 31208-4385

John F. Kraus II

Dear Editors,

On May 21, 2000 you ran several articles on nuclear energy. I feel that you did your readers a disservice when you failed to offer any serious comment on renewable energy. Renewable energy offers many benefits for society. These include reduced pollution, decreased toxic waste and enhanced public awareness of the need to conserve energy. Renewable energy is readily available through solar, wind and micro-hydro. Georgia is fortunate to have a high solar insolation rate and would be able to sustain a strong solar generation base.

Through a process called net metering, it is possible to connect the power produced from small to large-scale solar systems directly to the existing power grid using readily available grid synchronous inverters. Existing technology can replace expensive inert roofing materials with highly functional and attractive solar arrays, which can produce enough power to offset a significant portion of a buildings total power usage. Solar laminates can also be used on building facades. Solar power production peaks around solar noon, which is the time of highest demand. It is this peak demand that is driving the need to build new power plants. The atrium at the Aquatic Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology where a 4.5-kilowatt grid synchronous array is in use is a prime example of solar roofing. Solar power can also be used for water pumping and livestock barn ventilation with or without direct grid connection.

Unfortunately, there is little incentive for residential or commercial power consumers to invest in renewable energy, as there is minimal support from either the government or the Public Utility Companies. Net metering laws currently exist in 30 states. Georgia is not one of them. There is a poorly written net metering law pending in the Georgia legislature that would force any small power producer to purchase power on an annual basis and give any excess generation to the utility without compensation. This is hardly the way to increase interest in small-scale distributed generation. Several states have enacted various incentives to encourage the spread of distributed generation. If only a small part of the money being discussed for new nuclear and fossil fuel power plants were made available to residential and commercial customers for the installation of grid interactive solar systems, the need to build new generating plants could be deferred for many years.

Georgians face many choices as we enter the 21st century. When it comes to electric power generation we must decide between large-scale power plants with their massive start-up costs and long-term pollution and waste disposal problems and long-term sustainable technologies. With the declining availability of fossil fuels I feel we need to pursue solar as a source of clean sustainable energy.

Silent, dependable, non-polluting solar power generation is available now. Solar is ideally suited for small to medium scale distributed generation and could help reduce peak power demands. Consider the educational value of grid synchronous arrays at every public school in Georgia. Students would learn about electrical production, distribution and conservation by observing a real world application. Without foresight, leadership and public education it will not succeed. This is the role the Macon Telegraph should fill by informing Georgians of all the options.

Enclosed are several articles on renewable energy. In particular please read the article on Stelle Illinois where incentives from an Illinois state program have produced a community with a remarkable level of renewable energy utilization. I also hope you will print the URL for Homepower Magazine This is one of the best online sources for renewable energy information. The publisher provides the entire text of the magazine online via PDF files at no cost.