Report: 15 percent solar in reach

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Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center

Savannah, GA –Solar power is growing so fast in Georgia that goals once considered ambitious are now seen as readily achievable, according to a new report by Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center. Cities like Savannah and Tybee are helping to lead the charge by implementing innovative new solar programs.

“We can get to 15% solar in Georgia by 2030 if we just keep our foot on the accelerator,” said Jennette Gayer Environment Georgia’s director. “That’s a small fraction of what’s possible, but it will make a big difference in the quality of our lives and the future of our planet.”

The group’s researchers found that solar has grown 294% in recent years. Even if this pace slowed to 35%, solar could still generate 15% of Georgia’s electricity in less than two decades— a goal once thought improbable by many.

Achieving this target, the report said, would cut as much carbon pollution as 3.5 million cars emit in a year, and put Georgia more than halfway to the benchmark set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which requires cuts in power plant carbon pollution of 44 percent in Georgia by 2030.

“As residents of a barrier island facing rising sea levels driven by climate change, we have a responsibility to lead the transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy generation,” said Tybee Island City Councilman Paul Wolff, the inspiration for Solarize Tybee, which has been expanded to include all of Chatham County. “Harnessing free, inexhaustible sunshine, rather than drilling for oil off our coastline, is infinitely better for our wallets, our fragile ecosystems, and our quality of life.”

Solar is currently the fastest-growing industry in the country, adding 143,000 jobs nationwide in 2013. According to the latest solar jobs census from the Solar Foundation, the solar industry employed more than 2600 people in Georgia in 2013.

“The solar industry in Georgia is ready to take solar to the next level,” said Keith Freeman co-founder of OneWorld Sustainable. “We hear from homeowners, businesses, and nonprofit organizations every day who want to go solar, and with support from leaders in the legislature and Chatham County, I’m confident we can get to 15% solar by 2030.”

The report quantifies the state’s enormous solar energy potential using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Already, the state is home to more than 1.2 million residential and commercial rooftops that could host solar panels, and it has enough technical potential to meet the state’s energy needs 40 times over.

The report urges city, county and state leaders to embrace policies that will help drive more solar. Chatham County is preparing to launch the first ever solarize program in Georgia. The program will encourage residences, businesses and non-profits to band together to create buying power and install solar electric systems at a discount to their homes and businesses.

 “The City of Savannah is excited to join, by City Council resolution, the Solarize Tybee Program to promote the adoption of solar PV in Chatham County,” said Nick Deffley Director of Sustainability with the City of Savannah.  Solar PV provides a clean energy alternative that saves money on your energy bill and promotes a healthy environment, it just makes sense.”

“Oil spills happen, but solar spills are a nothing worse than a nice sunny day,” said Gayer. “Getting to 15 % solar is the just the first step to a future powered entirely by pollution-free energy that doesn’t threaten our fragile coastline.”