Will Georgia Power add more wind energy to its mix?

In early 2016, wind energy from Blue Canyon Wind Farm in Oklahoma will be delivered to Georgia Power customers. Credit: EDP Renewables

Georgia Power Company could be adding more wind power to its electricity portfolio. Yesterday Georgia Power issued a request for information (RFI) on wind generation resources. The RFI will give wind energy developers the opportunity to submit information on wind energy opportunities for Georgia Power and its customers.

Last May, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously approved the state’s first wind farm proposal. Georgia Power is entering into two long-term contracts for the purchase of 250 megawatts of power from wind farms in Oklahoma, enough to power over 50,000 homes. The main decision to approve these contracts stems from the extremely low cost of energy for ratepayers. The expected delivery date of this wind power purchase agreement is early 2016.

As a result of this low cost wind market procurement, Georgia Power decided to evaluate additional wind energy projects. Georgia Power stressed that the goal of the RFI is purely to receive information and will not result in a contract. After evaluating responses, Georgia Power could decide to pursue additional wind energy projects and issue a Request for Proposals (RFP).

We commend Georgia Power for taking this first step and hope that additional wind energy projects will be in Georgia’s portfolio in the near future. Wind power prices are continuing to drop and in many cases wind energy is now cheaper than coal and natural gas. Utilities across the Southeast are recognizing the benefits of delivering wind energy from the Plains. Alabama Power and Tennessee Valley Authority are also making contract agreements similar to Georgia Power to bring cost-effective wind energy into the region. There are also future opportunities to deliver wind energy from the midwest via new transmission lines. Clean Line Energy Partners is developing the Plains and Eastern project, which will deliver wind resources from the Plains to Southern states. With the construction of a new transmission line, this project will have the capacity to deliver 3,500 megawatts of wind energy to the South.

In addition to the delivery of wind energy from the Plains, Georgia has opportunities to develop wind projects within the state. Taller turbines and longer blades have greatly improved and expanded wind energy resources across the state.

Adding more wind energy to Georgia’s fuel mix can also help the state to comply with EPA’s recently proposed Clean Power Plan, which will regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Wind power, with no polluting air emissions, is a hugely important resource as the state continues to look for opportunities to lower CO2 emissions. Additionally, wind farms, like solar photovoltaic panels, do not use water to generate power. Developing 1,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity could reduce water consumption by 1.6 billion gallons per year by replacing water-intensive power plants.

The RFI response form will go live on December 8 and respondents will have until January 14 to submit information. Georgia Power will then evaluate responses and submit results to the Georgia PSC on February 27. The RFI documents, timeline, and contact information can be found here.

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