Message from the Chair: where does the solar market go from here?

Message from the Chair - Where does the solar market go from here?

In May, Georgia experienced an energy watershed.  There was a massive solar spill in South Georgia. Photons reached an all-time high and the overflow was uncontainableNo one suffered, no environmental impact occurredand no lingering effects ensued. All affected communities continued to function normally. This overflow of excess photons iknown as a Sunny Day, and we have 215 of them a year, on average, here in Georgia. 

 The GA Solar June 2019 eNews contains a plethora of articles about how adaptable solar energy has become and the economic impact it has contributed over the last decade. Jobs, jobs, jobs! You hear this a lot, but data and documented examples now abound showing the variety of applications for solar energy and how much this contributes to prosperity and productivity. In just the last year alone, the Jinko Solar plant in Jacksonville, FL, has begun production, the Hanwha Q-Cells plant in Dalton, GA, is up and running, and SK Batteries $1.7 billion plant in Commerce, GA, is under construction. These operations will create over 2,800 well-paid new jobs in the region’s renewable energy market. Over half of those jobs will be high tech and specialty.  

Now, solar and energy storage are positively affecting our economy in so many ways and changing our economic landscape with more sustainable, long-term sources of revenue. City and state governments are implementing sustainability goals, including requirements that new and renovated homes have systems adaptable for EV and solar. Building codes are setting new standards for solar and EV as well as storage. Is this costly? It does have a price tag, but it also offers savings over the life of the structure. We need to look at this as the long-term solution instead of continuing the current pattern of repetitive, piecemeal upgrades. 

So, what are the enduring benefits?  

Municipalities and their local business development authorities need to recognize the opportunities solar businesses and the supporting professional stimuli they create contribute to the local tax base. Local utilities sometimes suppress this potential economic impact with discriminatory programs, such as standby fees on solar customersMore collaborative engagement with solar can be a win-win for these utilities and their customers, adding millions of dollars in economic activity to the local economy. 

Jackson EMC and Cobb EMC, under its new CEO, have embraced that vision, supporting renewables including solar + storage. Together, these co-ops comprise the largest EMC membership in the country and a combined solar portfolio of over 220 MW of clean renewable energy for their membership. They are setting the precedent and demonstrating how effectively solar technology supports the future of power generation with reliable, cost-effective electricity. The complementary benefit to this new model is its attraction for companies whose business model prizes sustainability as a part of their global vision. 

And Walton EMC is leading all southeast utilities in solar power development according to a newly published report by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, “Solar in the Southeast 2018 Annual Report,” featured in the Ga Solar June 2019 eNews. 

The number of small businesses createto meet the increasing demand for solar energy has been one of the most positive economic trends in 50 years. Why? Right now, there are three times more job opportunities in the solar industry than in the coal industry.  

With coal industry jobs declining and clean energy jobs expanding, solar offers parents, and their children, a future they can embrace with enthusiasm. Think about it as you bask in one of Georgia’s 215 “Solar Spill” days. 

Thank you and have a Great Solar Day!

Russell Seifert
Georgia Solar Chair



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